Symbian influx boosts mobile device sales

Analysts say that sales of Nokia's Symbian-based 7650 seem to be sustainable, as the smartphone helps more than double handheld device shipments

An influx of consumer-oriented smartphones has provided a breath of fresh air for the European mobile device market, with shipments for the third quarter more than doubling those of the same period in 2001. The sales rise is the first time in several months that mobile device shipments have shown signs of life.

Shipments of mobile devices, including feature phones, smartphones, handhelds and wireless handhelds, totalled nearly 1.2 million in the third quarter, according to research firm Canalys. Nokia and Symbian were the biggest winners for the quarter due to the launch of Nokia's 7650 camera-phone, the first mass-market device to use the Symbian operating system and one of the first to include a built-in camera and a colour screen.

Nokia shipped 665,940 devices for the quarter, taking 56 percent of the mobile device market and accounting for almost all Symbian OS device sales. Symbian OS shipped in 669,490 devices and took 57 percent of the market, up from 33 percent for the same quarter last year.

The market share spike is similar to the situation a year ago when Nokia launched its Symbian-based Communicator device for business users. However, Canalys believes that Symbian sales will be more sustainable this time. "The 7650 is aimed at a wider audience, and the indications from the channel are much more positive this time," said Canalys director and senior analyst Chris Jones. He pointed to heavy operator subsidies for the 7650 and high-profile promotion by both Nokia and operators.

The 7650 and other upcoming camera phones -- including Sendo's Z100, Orange and HTC's SPV and Sony Ericsson's P800 -- are likely to benefit from operators' interest in picture messaging. Because operators are still rolling out picture messaging services, "the (multimedia messaging) and photo-messaging push is... likely to continue well into Q4," said Canalys analyst Andy Buss. "Operators... would like nothing better than to have millions of photos flying all over Europe on Christmas morning and New Year's Eve -- and that means reducing the up-front cost of the devices by as much as they can afford."

Network operators are counting on picture messaging services to boost their data revenues, in the absence of compelling 2.5G and 3G technologies.

The Palm OS was next in line behind Symbian, with shipments of 234,730 and a market share of 20 percent, growing 27 percent compared with Q3 2001. Windows CE market share grew faster, however, with 93 percent growth, and nearly tied the Palm OS with 20 percent of the market. This was in part due to the success of Toshiba, which entered the market in the past year and has already become the No. 4 handheld device maker in the European market, with 48,630 shipments.

"Toshiba, along with new entrants such as Fujitsu Siemens Computers (with the Pocket Loox), has helped Microsoft to get within 1 percent of Palm OS for the first time across EMEA," stated Buss.

Nokia, Palm and HP were the top three device makers, with Sony falling into the No. 5 spot with just over 38,000 sales of its Palm OS devices.

Canalys expected Palm to continue to improve sales with its low-cost Zire handheld, which is aimed at mainstream consumers.

The firm noted that handheld computer sales (both with and without integrated wireless) were up 23 percent on the same quarter last year. But despite the hype around gadgets such as O2's xda, T-Mobile's MDA, Handspring's Treo and RIM's BlackBerry, which add wireless to a handheld computer, such devices took less than 3 percent of the total mobile device market.

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