Samsung, LG, RIM Get Q1 Handset Shipment Boost

Samsung, LG and BlackBerry maker RIM helped boost the first quarter’s handset sales to 258 million

Mobile handset shipments exceeded expectations for the first quarter of 2009, with Samsung, LG Electronics and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) leading the industry, according to an ABI Research report.

In a pleasant surprise for an industry that appeared to have been battered by the global recession, handset vendors shipped 258 million units worldwide by the end of the quarter – beating previous forecasts of 253.5 million.

“Green shoots are sprouting,” Jake Saunders, an ABI analyst, wrote in the %u3200%u3400%u2000April report.

ABI gently revised its year-end 2009 forecasts from an 8.4 to 8 per cent decline, but no one expects the worst to be behind us yet.

“This will not be a V-shaped recovery,” Saunders wrote. “The second quarter of 2008 was a fairly strong quarter for handset sales, so handset shipments for [the second quarter of 2009] are going to report a [negative] 10 per cent decline year-over-year, but quarter-over-quarter they should show improvement.”

Samsung and LG performed well, taking their market shares to 17.8 per cent and 8.8 per cent, respectively.

RIM, “another star performer,” ABI said, “raised its share to 3.0 per cent, due largely to the success of its BlackBerry Bold.”

Apple’s market share was just 1.5 per cent, although ABI expects some accelerated growth once the iPhone 3G has “one or more siblings” come the second quarter. On 22 April, Apple reported the best non-holiday quarter revenue and earnings in its history.

Nokia, on the other hand, is expected to breathe a sigh of relief once it beefs up its touchscreen line-up and gets the Nokia N97 on the market. Its market share for the first quarter was 36.2 per cent – despite reporting its worst quarter in more than a decade.

Of Sony Ericsson’s showing, with a market share of 5.6 per cent, ABI said, “while Sony Ericsson has the Experia smartphone line-up, the firm’s exposure to the feature phone segment was squeezed more than other handset sectors.” Operators, ABI said, were cooler toward ultra low-cost and feature phones.

“Buyers in the developed world are still concerned about debt and job security,” ABI wrote, advising the industry to remain cautious. “Developing economies are expected to take a hit on the credit side, which could have knock-on consequences on credit lines for purchases and stock levels.”