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Friday, 31 October 2008 21:09

Mobile phone sales struck by financial crisis

Mobile phone sales dropped by 0.4% over Q2 08, and despite shipping 299m handsets in Q3 08, analyst firm IDC says this result is thanks to a “dismal economy” when Q3 sales are traditionally much, much higher.

Uh-oh... the economic crisis is causing people to spend less as they worry and wonder about the future, and mobile phones are just one of the many areas feeling the pinch.

IDC says that the “third quarter of the year has historically been a ramp-up quarter as manufacturers load their sales channels with handsets in preparation for the holiday season, producing year-over-year growth rates as high as 20% as a result.”

However, “this year has not witnessed a similar ramp up, largely due to the current economic situation.”

Ryan Reith, senior research analyst with IDC’s Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker explained: “Handset vendors felt the pressures of the dismal economy in the third quarter of 2008, and as a result, shipments and revenues were down almost across the board. There were two signs of hope from two major players during third quarter earnings.

“First, as highly anticipated and now confirmed, Apple reported an extremely successful quarter and noted it is on pace to surpass its initial 2008 shipment estimates.

“Second Nokia's CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo announced a positive outlook for 2008 despite a tough third quarter. This offers reassurance to all industry players as Nokia has been a clear leader in the mobile phone space for quite some time,” continued Reith.

IDC says that average phone prices are now dropping as marketing campaigns “ramp up” with competition for sales and buyers set to sizzle in 2009 in the hope that sales sizzle, too – in what is expected to be a slow year.

Ramon T. Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends said: “While the overall mobile phone market registered small growth compared to last year, the market for converged mobile devices (commonly known as smartphones) posted strong gains.

“The worldwide release of the Apple iPhone 3G earlier this summer marked a major step not only for Apple, but also raised the profile of converged mobile devices as a whole. Add on top of that the attention generated by the Google-powered G1, and the converged mobile device suddenly finds itself as the device sought by both seasoned and first-time users."

So, what does IDC say happened around the world? Please read on to page 2.

IDC has provided a “Regional Analysis” of mobile phone sales around the world. Here’s what they have to say:

- In North America, new releases from Apple, Palm, and Research In Motion, along with the highly anticipated release of the HTC G1, pushed the converged mobile device further into the public eye and into users' hands. Conversely, traditional mobile phones were not able to keep up the pace and showed a slight decline from a year ago. Even so, overall growth in the region remained sound heading into 4Q08.

- In Latin America, the mobile phone market posted slower growth than expected, but the converged mobile device market made terrific strides, especially with the official release of the Apple iPhone in key countries. Although the region is widely known as a key emerging market, that has not stopped carriers and vendors from trying to migrate users to higher-end devices and services.

- The EMEA market posted mixed results, with continued downturn in Western Europe due to economic challenges but still strong growth from the converged mobile device market. In neighboring CEMA, vendors showed no sign yet of a significant slowdown. While the financial crisis had an impact on sales in Russia and Eastern Europe, emerging markets in general have so far proved resilient to a slowdown in the mobile arena, and this is particularly true of Africa, which is benefiting from lower oil and food prices.

- The Asia/Pacific market registered mixed fortunes in 3Q08. Although there were signs of growth in emerging markets like China and Indonesia, other developed markets suffered during the quarter. In particular, the Australia market slumped due to a combination of third-quarter seasonality and weak economic sentiment, while the high-end Korea market experienced a double-digit decrease as dueling operators eased away from an expensive subsidy war.

IDC also has a breakdown on the “top five mobile phone vendors.

Nokia didn’t decrease prices greatly, benefitting from its global leadership position, and expects the E71, N95 and iPhone-clone 5800 XpressMusic “Tube” phone to “gain attention during the holiday quarter”.

Samsung shipped “over fifty million units [in Q3] for the first time in its history”, seeing success in its touch portfolio, posting more than twice the grown of the overall market and making nearly 11% in operating margin, thanks to aggressive pricing and massive marketing.

IDC then says that Sony Ericsson took the number 3 spot worldwide for the “first time in its history”, but suffered a lower “average selling price” while finally launching the “much anticipated XPeria X1”.

What about Motorola and LG – and what are IDC’s figures for market share? Please read on to page 3.

IDC says Motorola is “reversing its fortunes”, despite volumes being a “fraction of what they used to be” and more losses. Motorola has the “Krave ZN3, several ROKR devices, Rapture VU30, and the luxurious AURA which address consumer demand for touchscreen and multimedia handsets.”
LG Electronics apparently “slipped into the number five spot during the quarter” thanks to lower unit shipments and European economic challenges, but even so IDC says “LG has been meeting consumer demand and taste for messaging, touchscreen, and music devices, which have driven strong revenue growth from the same quarter a year ago as well as double digit operating margin.”

Top LG phones include “the Secret and Viewty, while new devices like the Decoy and Dare continued to gain momentum.”

IDC says that the top five mobile phone vendors, shipments and market share for Q3 2008 in millions are as follows:

                     Units        Market Share   

Nokia             117.8        39.4%    

Samsung        51.8         17.3%    

Sony Ericsson  25.7         8.6%    

Motorola         25.4         8.5%    

LG                 23.0         7.7%    

Others           55.3         18.5%

Total             299.0       100.0%    


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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