Wake-Up Call: Smartphone Sales Surge As RIM, Apple Gain Share

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Worldwide mobile phone sales fell in the first quarter of 2009, but Apple and Research In Motion drove growth in the smartphone category, according to a new report.

In the first quarter of 2009, Apple and RIM increased their market share in smartphones, according to IT research and analyst firm Gartner. What may be surprising to some is that RIM continued to outpace Apple in sales.

For the first quarter of this year, RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, sold about 7.2 million units. Apple, meanwhile, sold about 3.9 million iPhones. Both companies increased their overall smartphone market share from 2008 to 2009, with RIM jumping to 19.9 percent from 13.3 percent and Apple jumping to 10.8 percent from 5.3 percent.

However, both RIM and Apple are still chasing Nokia for the No. 1 spot in the smartphone market. Nokia sold nearly 15 million units in the first quarter of 2009, but its market share decreased to 41.2 percent in 2009 from 45.1 percent in 2008.

Overall, the smartphone market continued to grow. In first-quarter 2008, smartphones grabbed 11 percent of mobile device sales. In the first part of 2009, that market share jumped to 13.5 percent. Gartner believes that services and applications, as well as touch-screen capabilities, are responsible for the growth.

"Much of the smartphone growth during the first quarter of 2009 was driven by touch-screen products, both in midtier and high-end devices," Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "'Touch for the sake of touch' was enough of a driver in the midtier space, but tighter integration with applications and services around music, mobile e-mail and Internet browsing made the difference at the high end of the market."

For the non-smartphone market, which Gartner refers to as mobile phones, more than 269 million devices were sold in the first quarter of 2009, down from 294 million in 2008.

The usual suspects were all represented in Gartner's report. In the mobile phone market, Nokia led all competitors but lost market share in the first quarter. The Finnish mobile phone maker sold about 97.3 million devices, down from 115 million in 2008. The company also lost about 3 percent of its market share, dropping to 36.2 percent.

Samsung, on the other hand, grew quarter over quarter, increasing its share of the mobile phone market to 19.1 percent from 14.4 percent, moving 51.3 million units in the first quarter.

LG came in third with 9.9 percent of the market in first-quarter 2009 and moved about 26.5 million mobile phones.

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