Apple topples Microsoft for mobile share

Latest Gartner report reveals Apple iPhone displaced Microsoft's Windows Mobile devices for third place in global smartphone sales in 2009.

Apple demonstrated its growing clout in the mobile space when it knocked Microsoft off for third place in global smartphone sales last year, according to Gartner's latest report.

Apple's market share grew by 6.2 percent from 2008, to sell 24 million iPhones for 14.4 percent of the market. Microsoft's Windows Mobile devices had 8.7 percent market share, with 15 million devices sold.

Overall, worldwide mobile phone sales reached 1.21 billion units last year, a 0.9 percent decline from the year before.

However, smartphone sales grew strongly, up 23.81 percent over the year before to reach 172.4 million units, said Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner, in the report.

Milanesi highlighted Apple and Research in Motion's (RIM) performance in capturing market share with their smartphone portfolios. RIM had 19.9 percent of this market.

Of the overall mobile market, Nokia was still the number one phone vendor with a 36.4 percent share, having shipped 441 million handsets. This, however, represented a 2.2 percent market share drop over 2008.

The Finnish outfit also dominated in the Asia-Pacific mobile space, with a 40.8 percent share comprising 197,000 phones sold, over second place holder Samsung with 15 percent and 72 million shipped. Asia Pacific, in contrast to the flat global market, saw a total of 483.5 million devices sold last year, up 6.7 percent from 453.1 million in 2008.

Milanesi said: "Nokia's declining smartphone average selling prices showed that it continues to face challenges from other smartphone vendors."

Nokia sold 80 million Symbian devices last year, holding on to a 46.9 percent market share. It had 52.4 percent in 2008.

Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner, said: "Symbian has become uncompetitive in recent years but its market share, particularly on Nokia devices, is still strong. If Symbian can use this momentum, it could return to positive growth."

The Symbian Foundation is expecting the first fully open source Symbian^3 devices by the end of the first quarter of 2010, with Symbian^4 slated for year-end, said Cozza.

Another strong performer in the smartphone market last year was Android, pointed out Cozza. With more manufacturers releasing Android-based devices, the Google-backed OS grew its market share by 3.5 percent to reach 3.9 percent of the market, at 6.8 million devices.

In January this year, Google released its Nexus One device, placing itself in competition with other partners which have released Android devices under their own brands.

Said Cozza: "Android's success experienced in the fourth quarter of 2009 should continue into 2010, as more manufacturers launch Android products, but some service providers and manufacturers have expressed growing concern about Google's intentions in the mobile market.

"If such concerns cause manufacturers to change their product strategies or service providers to switch which devices they stock, this might hinder Android's growth in 2010," he added.

The rise of Apple and Android devices is likely tied to an increase in the number of touchscreen smartphones in the market. According to a recent Canalys report, touchscreens formed the majority of global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2009, having doubled 2008's figure to hit 55 percent. This translates to 75 million touchscreen smartphones shipped last year.

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