Mobile Sales Hit By Deepest Ever Plunge


Reduced shipments from Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG Electronics and Motorola contribute to the fastest annual decline in history

Worldwide handset shipments plunged 13 percent in the first three months of 2009—from 282 million handsets shipped in the first quarter of 2008 to 245 million units in the first quarter of this year—according to an 30 April Strategy Analytics report.

“This was the fastest rate of annual decline in handset shipments since our records began,” Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics, wrote in the new report.

Apple and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion showed positive growth, but the top five handset vendors—Nokia, Samsung, LG Electronics, Ericsson and Motorola—grew at negative rates. Among these, Samsung performed best, falling only 1 percent annually and “grabbing a record 19 percent global share,” Mawston reported.

Nokia shipped 93.2 million handsets worldwide in the first quarter of 2009, down 19 percent from a year earlier. It lost 3 percentage points of market share, for a total of 38 percent.

Samsung shipped 45.8 million handsets worldwide in the first quarter of 2009.

“Even with the decline, Samsung was the top-performing mega-vendor, beating the industry’s average growth rate and increasing the company’s global market share to an all-time high of 19 percent,” wrote Mawston.

He further pointed out that with the I7500 set to launch in Europe this June, Samsung is the first of the big five global brands to announce a handset running the Google Android mobile operating system.

Consequently, Mawston said he expects Samsung will prove tough competition for HTC, maker of the Android-based T-Mobile G1 smartphone. T-Mobile sold 1 million of the Android phones within six months of its release.

LG shipped 22.6 million handsets worldwide in the first quarter, a fall of 7 percent from its 24.4 million units in the first quarter of 2008. Still, LG saw “above-average growth,” which Mawston credited to “a steady stream of attractive devices, an improved retail presence and more visible marketing.”

Fourth-place Motorola shipped 14.7 million handsets worldwide in the first quarter of 2009, which was down 46 percent annually. Mawston commented that the introduction of new handsets, particularly those running Android, will be critical to its recovery.

Sony-Ericsson shipped 14.5 million handsets in first quarter, falling 40 percent from the 24.2 million units it shipped in the first quarter of 2008. Mawston attributed this, in part, to Sony-Ericsson’s lack of presence in the “high-value smartphone market.”

Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia each recently reduced work force numbers.

Apple shipped 3.8 million iPhones worldwide in the first quarter of 2009—an increase of 123 percent from its 1.7 million units a year earlier. “We expect Apple to launch one or more new models in the coming months as it seeks to maintain its breakneck growth,” Mawston wrote.

Strategy Analytics gave no information on RIM, beyond a first-quarter 2009 growth rate of approximately 69 percent.

In closing, Strategy Analytics forecasted 266 million units to ship in the second quarter of 2009, for an annual decline of 10 percent.

“Handset industry growth rates should improve gradually in the second half of 2009, as retailers rebuild their inventories with compelling new models and consumers regain confidence in their financial position,” Mawston reported.

Click to read the authors bio  Click to hide the authors bio