The numbers are out from market research houses, and the biggest winners for the first quarter of 2010 in smartphones were Apple and Nokia. Both companies saw their sales surge from the same period in 2009, and both gained market share, according to figures released Apr. 30 by Boston-based researcher Strategy Analytics.
The telecom research firm figures the global market for smartphones—handsets that support wireless e-mail, Internet access, downloadable apps, and often touchscreen- or stylus-based user interfaces—grew by a sprightly 50% vs. the first quarter of 2009, to 53.7 million units. That amounts to about 18% of overall handset unit sales, up from just under 15% a year earlier. Apple’s sales grew a dazzling 132%, to 8.8 million units, while Nokia’s grew an impressive 57%, to 21.5 million units.
Canada’s Research In Motion was no slouch, either: The BlackBerry-maker shipped 10.6 million units in the quarter, up 45% from a year earlier, giving it the No. 2 position overall in the category, according to Strategy Analytics. But RIM’s market share in smartphones slipped slightly to 19.7%. Finland’s Nokia commanded 40% of the market—up from 38.2% in the first quarter of 2009—and California-based Apple walked away with 16.4% share, vs. 10.6% a year earlier.
Of course, smartphones are still a relatively small (if profitable) part of the overall mobile phone market, where Nokia and the Korean giants Samsung and LG Electronics continue to dominate. Figures released Apr. 30 by researcher IDC show that the global market for all kinds of handsets, which run the gamut from high-priced devices with video and GPS navigation to lowly voice-and-texting models, surged a healthy 21.7% in the quarter, to 242.2 million units, vs. the same period in 2009.
IDC cautions that this isn’t a sustainable growth rate, given that last year’s first quarter—amid the depths of the global economic downturn—was one of the worst on record. Overall, IDC expects mobile phone shipments this year to climb by about 11% vs. 2009. But in an encouraging sign for mobile operators who have invested billions in building out third-generation (3G) networks that support faster wireless data connections, ABI Research said on Apr. 30 that for the first time in history sales of 3G-compatible phones in the first quarter of 2010 eclipsed those of earlier-generation (2G) devices.