Gartner: 3G phones will flop this Christmas

Analyst firm sees little demand for third-generation handsets, but 3 has hit back by claiming Gartner hasn't got to grips with the sales figures

Analyst group Gartner has predicted that sales of 3G phones will be poor this Christmas because the devices have failed to grab consumers' attention, a charge that mobile phone operator 3 has strongly refuted.

In a report published on Tuesday, Gartner warned that 3G mobile phones could suffer from over-supply and a lack of demand during the lucrative fourth quarter.

Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst for mobile terminals research at Gartner UK, said 3G handsets face a lack of demand this Christmas, partly due to an unclear marketing message.

"Gartner predicts a build up in handset inventory — which will affect 3G mobile phones in particular — as mobile operators, especially in Western Europe, will fail to convince consumers that Christmas this year will be a 3G Christmas," Milanesi said.

This, Milanesi claimed, is because users aren't impressed with the functionality offered by a 3G phone.

"We're still missing a reason for 3G, do users really care? They don't notice if it takes 30 seconds to download a song or not," Milanesi argued.

The mobile phone industry has experienced a few false starts with 3G. But 3, the first operator to launch 3G services in the UK, hit out at Gartner's claims.

A spokesman for 3 said the analyst had clearly misinterpreted the success of 3, both globally and locally, and was patronising 3G customers' knowledge of the technology.

"There has been a clear lack of understanding of where we are in the market. Our customers clearly understand Web access, video messaging, TV and games," the 3 spokesman said.

The 3 spokesman added that he disagreed with Gartner's claim that people didn't have a reason to move to 3G. "We have 10 million customers globally and at least 3.2 million in the UK, which I think is a clear demonstration of 3G's success in the market," he stated.