Research firm IDC reports smartphone sales were up 39 percent to a record level of 54.5 million units in the final quarter of 2009. For the full year, shipments hit 174.2 million units, up 15.1 percent from the 151.4 million units in the year before. According to the firm, 15.4 percent of all mobile phones shipped in 2009 were smartphones, up from 12.7 percent in 2008.
"Four of the top five vendors established new shipment records for a single quarter, indicating strong demand in the market," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team. "Increasingly, mobile phone users are seeking greater utility from their devices beyond telephony and messaging, and converged mobile devices fulfill that need. To help address demand, carriers took advantage of lower prices on many older devices, ordering additional units and, in turn, offering reduced prices to end users. It was the perfect set of conditions to push shipments to a record level."
Market Outlook for 2010
IDC anticipates that ongoing demand will drive the worldwide converged mobile device market to a new shipment record in 2010, with additional impetus from the shifting landscape of mobile operating systems. "2009 was the coming-out party for Google's Android and Palm's webOS as both operating systems revealed new ways to surround the users with increased functionality," says Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Tracker. "More advances are in store for 2010 as Symbian and Windows are expected to unveil new versions of their respective operating systems. These and other operating systems will compete with attention-grabbing intuitiveness and seamlessness, a thriving mobile application library, and a compelling user experience that tightly holds on to the user. In the end, users will benefit from not only greater usability, but greater personalization and customization as well."
Top Five Converged Mobile Device Vendors, 4Q09
Nokia ended the year the same way that it began: as the undisputed leader of converged mobile devices worldwide. Nokia's shift to bring more touchscreen-enabled smartphones to market began to pay off, as its 5800, N97, N97 mini, and 5530 models drove both revenue and profits. In addition, Nokia quickly pointed out the competitiveness of its Eseries devices. While these results signify important milestones for the company's converged mobile device unit, it should be pointed out that reduced prices on many older models helped drive unit growth.
Research In Motion topped the ten million unit mark for the first time in the company's history. New device launches, including the high-end Bold 9700, touchscreen-enabled Storm 2 9550, and the mass-market targeted 8520, deepened the company's product portfolio, and lower prices on its popular Curve and Pearl models - in some cases being given away for free with a two-year service agreement - propelled shipments further.
Apple's iconic iPhone added another chapter to its short history by nearly doubling its shipments from the same quarter a year ago. Demand for the Apple iPhone continued unabated during the holiday quarter, and agreements with multiple carriers within the same market enabled further distribution. The fourth quarter also saw the launch of the iPhone at one of the world's largest carriers: China Unicom.
Motorola returned to the top five vendor list after a year-long hiatus. The company fulfilled its promise of launching its first Android-powered devices before the end of the year, and earned a warm reception as combined shipments of its DROID at Verizon Wireless and the CLIQ/DEXT at multiple carriers reached two million units in their debut. Motorola still offered versions of its legacy devices, including versions of the Windows Mobile-powered Q and the Linux powered MING A1800, RAZR 2V8, and Tundra in multiple markets.
HTC launched a new marketing campaign in 4Q09 showing how 'you don't need a phone, you need a phone that gets you.' This approach speaks to how its multifaceted devices align with users' multifaceted lives. While it may be too early to gauge the success of the campaign, it does bring the company's brand to the forefront. HTC continues to enjoy the success of its deep touchscreen-enabled device portfolio, and added the Android-powered Eris and Hero to its growing Android selection.
Here's an overview of the biggest smartphone makers: