Mobile phone sales grew by 31.8% to 1.6 billion units in 2010, according to figures that Gartner released today. Almost one in five of those was a smartphone, and smartphone sales were 72.1% higher than in 2009. Indeed, smartphone sales of 296.7 million units show it gaining rapidly on the PC market, which accounted for 350.9 million units last year.
According to Gartner, Nokia again dominated the mobile phone market in unit volumes, shifting 461.3 million phones compared to 440.9m in 2009. However, its market share fell by 7.5 percentage points to 28.9%. Samsung was in second place, selling 281.1m units for a 17.6% share (down by 1.9 points). LG was third, selling 114.2m units for a 7.1% market share (down by 3.0 points)
The winners were the smartphone specialists, Research in Motion and Apple. RIM, in fourth place, increased its sales by 38% to 47.5m phones for a market share of 3%. Apple, in fifth spot, did even better, increasing its unit sales by 78% to 46.6m for a market share of 2.9%.
Gartner noted that "Despite growing volume sales, RIM was unable to keep up with market growth and saw its market share decline from 19.5% in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 13.7% in the fourth quarter of 2010."
Apple's growth was "largely due to expansion into new countries and the ending of exclusivity deals," added Gartner. It should get a further boost thanks to the recent addition of Verizon to launch partner AT&T in the US market.
However, outside the main industrialised countries, the cost of smartphones may be a limiting factor. Garter's principal research analyst Roberta Cozza pointed out that "Western Europe and North America accounted for 52.3% of global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2010, with smartphones accounting for close to half of all handsets sold in these regions."
Nokia's Symbian topped the list of smartphone operating systems, accounting for 111.6m phones and a market share of 37.6%. While unit sales increased from 81.9m units in 1009, Symbian lost 9.3 percentage points of market share. Second-place Android grew by 888.8% from 6.8m to 67.2m units and its market share shot up by 18.8 percentage points to 22.7%.
Gartner said: "Symbian’s market share dropped further in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 32.6% or 32.6 million units. This allowed Android to overtake Nokia's Symbian unit sales during the fourth quarter of 2010. However, the Symbian OS is also used by Fujitsu and Sharp as well as in legacy products from Sony Ericsson and Samsung. This aggregated volume kept Symbian slightly ahead of Android,"
RIM's BlackBerry operating system was third with 47.5m units and a market share of 16.0% -- down 3.9 percentage points. Apple's iOS was fourth with 46.6m units and a market share of 15.7%. In fifth place, Microsoft did particularly badly as it initiated the switch from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7. Unit sales declined from 15.0m to 12.4m units and Microsoft's market share halved to 4.2%.
With RIM also facing a switchover to a QNX-based operating system, and Nokia facing a range of choices -- Symbian, MeeGo, Android, Windows Phone 7? -- the odds are that Google's Android and Apple's iOS will continue to enjoy strong growth.