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Mobile devices ship ahead of expectations, but still down 11%

Mobile device shipments globally reached 258 million handsets for the first quarter — well above forecast amounts but still an 11% decline over the same quarter last year, ABI Research Inc. said today.

“Green shoots are sprouting,” declared Jake Saunders, ABI Research vice president. ABI had forecast shipments of 253 million devices.

Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Technologies Inc. had the healthiest gains, reaching 17.8% and 8.8% of the total share of the market, respectively, while Research In Motion Ltd. grew to 3% due to the success of the BlackBerry Bold, said ABI analyst Kevin Burden.

Apple's market share was 1.5%, which Burden said “is a little curious” because he expected it to be higher with the popularity of the App Store and the iPhone 3G. Increased competition in the touch-screen segment of the market may be a factor, he said.

Both Nokia Corp. and Sony Ericsson saw their shares drop to 36.2% and 5.6%, respectively. Nokia's fortunes could improve with the release of the N97 smartphone, ABI said in a statement, and the vendor has already seen a “fair amount of success” with the E71 device.

Given the likelihood that unemployment rates will continue to climb, ABI urged the mobile device industry to be cautious about increasing inventories, despite the better-than-expected first-quarter numbers.

ABI earlier released 2008 year-end numbers showing that Nokia had 38.6% of all 1.21 billion cell phone shipments globally, followed by Samsung at 16.2%, LG at 8.3%, Motorola at 8.3%, Sony Ericsson at 8%, Research In Motion at 1.9%, Kyocera at 1.4%, Apple (shipping two versions of the iPhone) at 1.1%, HTC at 1.1%, Sharp at 1% and all others at 14%.

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