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White box builders, smartphones behind mobile boom

Alex Scroxton

The worldwide market for mobile phone sales has enjoyed another record quarter on the back of continuing adoption of smartphones sales of which soared 96%, and the growth of a new white box mobile sector in the developing world.

The latest mobility market figures from Gartner have revealed that 417 million units were shipped in the third calendar quarter of 2010, up 35% year-on-year.

Smartphones, said the analysts, accounted for 19.3% of overall device sales during the period.

Research vice president Carolina Milanesi said the third consecutive double-digit year-on-year sales increase was a sure-fire sign that "demand is healthy".

"This quarter saw Appla and Android drive record smartphone sales. Apple's share of the smartphone market surpassed RIM in North America to put it second behind Android, while Android volumes also ghrew rapidly making it the number two operating system worldwide," she said.

Globally, Nokia held 28.2% of the market, shipping 117 million units, but saw its market share drop from 36.7% this time last year. Second-placed Samsung, third placed LG, and Apple and RIM also saw their overall market shares dipping, although they all shipped far more units year-on-year.

According to Milanesi, this trend was accounted for by the rise of small scale 'white box' manufacturers in major developing world economies.

"This is having a profound effect on the top five mobile handset manufacturers' combined share that dropped from 83% in the third quarter of 2009 to 66.9% in the third quarter of 2010," said Milanesi.

A series of components shortages, which impacted Apple in particular, did not help matters either.

Turning to smartphones, Nokia's Symbian platform maintained its market leading share of 36.6%, down from 44.6% year-on-year, as the Android OS continued its seemingly unstoppable rise, from 3.5% this time last year to 25.5% in Q3.

However, Android's meteoric rise didn't just come at the expense of Nokia; it also put Apple's iOS, RIM and Microsoft Windows Mobile on a downward curve, said analysts, adding that the speed of upgrades to Android was forcing a growth spurt in platform evolution. 

"Any platform that fails to innovate quickly - either through a vibrant multi-player ecosystem or clear vision of a single controlling entity - will lose developers, manufacturers, potential partners and ultimately users," said principal research analyst Roberta Cozza.


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