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Gartner: Smartphones boom, overall mobile sales drop

Apple and Google continue to dominate, as Nokia, Microsoft and RIM struggle

Mobile phone sales floundered during the second quarter, in the wake of the earthquake in Japan. But smartphone sales continued to grow, as Android extended its lead in the operating system race, according to market research company Gartner.

Overall sales of mobile devices to end users totalled 428.7 million units in the second quarter of 2011, a 16.5 percent increase compared to the same period in 2010, but a 4.4 percent decrease from the previous quarter, as the availability of components was affected by the earthquake in Japan.

Smartphone sales grew from 100.8 million to 107.7 million units sequentially, and were up 74 percent year-on-year. The segment now accounts for 25 percent of overall sales.

But all is not well. Replacement sales in Western Europe showed signs of fatigue as smartphone sales declined quarter-on-quarter, partly due to declining consumer confidence in the face of larger economic worries, according to Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Google and Apple continue to be the big winners in the smartphone ecosystem. The combined share of Android and iOS nearly doubled to 61.6 percent in the second quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year.

Vendors sold 46.8 million smartphones based on Google's embattled operating system, giving it a 43.4 percent market share. That compares to 10.7 million units and a market share of 17.2 percent in the second quarter of 2010. Android's lead over second placed Symbian is now about 23 million units, up from almost 10 million during the first three months of 2011. Symbian's market share is now 22.1 percent.

Again, Apple and iOS exceeded expectations, even though the iPhone 4 will soon be replaced by a new model, according to Gartner. Sales were helped by the 42 new carriers and 15 new countries that Apple entered in the second quarter of 2011, which brought its total coverage to 100 countries, Gartner wrote.

Apple continued to be the fourth largest phone maker overall, the number two smartphone maker and its iOS the third largest smartphone operating system. It sold 19.6 million phones, helping the company's market share to grow from 2.4 percent to 4.6 percent year-on-year. In the operating system race among smartphones, iOS now has 18.2 percent market share, compared to 14.1 percent in the second quarter 2010.

Apple still has some work to do if the company wants to become the third largest phone maker in the world. The current number three, LG Electronics, sold 24.4 million units, about 5 million fewer year-on-year.

Partners Nokia and Microsoft are both struggling. Nokia is still the biggest phone and smartphone maker, according to Gartner's numbers. The company sold 97.9 million phones, compared to 111.5 million in the second quarter of 2010. That meant its market share dropped from 30.3 percent to 22.8 percent. Nokia's numbers were helped by a sales channel that worked hard to move its stock of the company's phones, in part by cutting prices on older models, according to Gartner.

The sales of smartphones based Windows Phone, which Nokia is betting its future on, is not taking off. Sales during the first three months totalled just 1.6 million units, and during the second quarter sales dropped slightly, according to Gartner, which didn't break out the actual sales number.

"Even if Nokia launches a device by the end of the year, we don't expect a turnaround for this platform until second half of 2012," said Cozza.

Windows Phone also dropped behind Bada, which is now the fifth largest smartphone operating system.

Bada's inventor Samsung had a good second quarter. Sales grew from 65.3 million to 69.8 million year-on-year, which helped it close in on Nokia in the top spot. Samsung also became the third-largest smartphone vendor, heading past Research In Motion (RIM). However, the company's overall share dropped year-on-year, mainly due to its weaker presence in more price-sensitive market segments, according to Gartner.

Besides Nokia and Microsoft, Research In Motion is also struggling.

RIM didn't just drop one spot down to fourth in the smartphone ranking. It also dropped to the sixth spot in the overall sales ranking. ZTE is now the fifth largest phone maker in the world, according to Gartner. RIM may have increased its sales by about 1 million units to 12.7 million, but ZTE grew its sales from 6.7 million to 13.1 million units.

"ZTE did well with feature phones in emerging markets, but its success also shows the growing importance of Android in the lower end," said Cozza.

Gartner's top 10 list of largest phones makers, counting units sold to end users, is rounded out by HTC, Motorola, Huawei and Sony Ericsson.

The market research company now expects the overall market to increase by about 12 percent. When reporting on the first quarter, Gartner said it expected sales to decrease, but growing sales in some emerging markets given it a more positive outlook, according to Cozza.

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