Mobile handset demand fuels 336.5 million shipments

The fourth quarter of 2009 saw an estimated 336.5 million handsets shipped globally, an increase of 15.1% quarter on quarter, according to ABI Research.

“2009 may have started with a whimper but by the fourth quarter of 2009 the global mobile handset market ended with a pretty reasonable bang,” said Jake Saunders, vice president for forecasting at ABI Research. “We estimate 336.5 million handsets were shipped in 4Q-2009, up 15.1% quarter on quarter.”

“Obama’s stimulus package certainly helped save the mobile handset industry,” Saunders noted. “Renewed consumer confidence in the second half of 2009 meant that shipments for the whole year only shrank 4.5% to 1.153 billion. Dire scenarios were mooted in early 2009. There is cautious optimism about 2010 despite the fragile nature of the global recovery. ABI Research forecasts shipments to expand to 1.2 billion handsets in 2010.”

Despite Nokia’s weakened position in the smartphone segment, it still managed to maintain 37.7% of the overall handset market. Samsung, the marketshare juggernaut, seems unstoppable.

Between June 2008 and December 2009, Samsung increased its market share from 15.2% to 20.5%. Samsung has benefited from a strong line up of feature phones as well as a strong reputation for innovative smartphones. Korea’s level of influence over the handset market is further underscored by LG, the third largest handset vendor (10.1%). LG has been counting on its S-Class smartphone series to help it secure a bridgehead in the market.

“In 3Q-2009, Motorola, under the direction of Sanjay Jha, has come out of its corner fighting with a refreshed portfolio,” added practice director, Kevin Burden. “The Droid has received critical acclaim. However Motorola’s marketshare continued to contract to 3.6%.” Sony Ericsson also experienced a contraction to 4.3% but has high hopes that its Android-based handsets will generate renewed interest.

HTC’s marketshare did not fare well early last year, but its circumstances improved slightly in 4Q, to 1.0% share. Notably, HTC announced a revamped handset portfolio strategy, not just targeting high end smartphones but also launching smartphones that appeal to purchasers with smaller wallets. These low cost HTC Smart devices will rely on BREW.

Competition continued to squeeze handset ASPs. In 4Q-2009, shipment-based ASPs were down 2% to US$117.55.