Is the picture phone market a one horse race?Nokia has overtaken a strong Asian lead and moved into the lead in the camera phone stakes and it looks like staying in there and pulling away from what is now a neck-and-neck fixture, according to consultants Strategy Analytics.
Nitesh Patel, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, said: "Nokia is more aggressive than the other [manufacturers] and it is a popular maker. And, in Western Europe, the operators are aggressively pushing upgrades on their customers - there are higher subsidies on the handsets."
The Finnish phone group grabbed 14 per cent of the global market in the fourth quarter of 2003 with 4.5 million shipments and a total of 11 million over the year as a whole. For the year, it was pipped by NEC, which shipped 13.1 million phones. However, Strategy sees Samsung as Nokia's only challenger this year.
Total shipments for last year were 84 million worldwide, which easily outstripped the number of digital cameras at 49 million.
The phones are unlikely to be bought as camera replacements, according to Patel. "Both markets will grow but we don't expect more than five to 10 per cent of the phones to be bought to replace cameras. We expect that camera phones will stimulate the sale of digital cameras.
"It will be some time before the phones reach the picture quality of current cameras."
Nokia now has a 35 per cent share of the entire mobile phone market.