Global mobile market hits high note

Gartner's latest research indicates that the market for mobile phones is bigger than ever

The international mobile phone market achieved its highest first quarter result ever, Gartner said today, with sales up by 34 percent from the first quarter in 2003.

Gartner reported that all regions had experienced a strong growth period early in the year, bringing the global total of mobile phone sales to 154 million units.

Principal analyst for mobile terminals, Ben Wood, says the Asia-Pacific market also experienced record sales in Q1.

"The Asia Pacific market was buoyed by purchases for the Chinese New Year, healthy growth in emerging markets and surprising numbers of people in mature markets choosing to upgrade their phones," he said.

Wood predicts that global mobile phone sales will surpass 600 million units in 2004.

All of the top five mobile vendors -- Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Siemens and Sony Ericsson – increased phone sales from the first quarter 2003 result. However, Nokia experienced a decline in market share.

The vendor increased sales by around five million units worldwide. However, it experienced a 5.7 percent drop in market share which, Gartner says, is due to "decreased sales in Western Europe and North America".

"Nokia's dramatic drop in market share resulted from a weak product portfolio and the decision by operators in Western Europe to source more phones from Nokia's competitors," said Wood.

Motorola recorded a much improved first quarter, upping last years result by over eight million units. Gartner attributed the increase to the popularity of the vendor's new V300, V500/525 and V600 phones in Western Europe.

"The challenge for Motorola is to maintain this strong performance. Now that it has started to regain the trust of key global operators, it must keep its promises," Wood said. "Given Nokia's recent price cuts and more flexible approach to working with operators, Motorola can't afford to be late with new products in the second half of 2004."

Gartner also reported "higher-than-expected sales" in Western Europe, predicting that the region will be a hot spot for 3G mobile sales by the end of 2004 due to the recent release of 3G products from TIM, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

North American mobile phone sales were up by 30 percent in the first quarter, said Gartner, with the consumer trend moving towards colour phones with built-in cameras.

Gartner said sales were also strong in Australia, China, India and Thailand, with more than 11 million units sold in Japan.

ZDNet Australia's staff reported from Sydney. For more coverage from ZDNet Australia, click here.