Mobile phone quarterly sales plummet

Sales of mobile phones globally quarter on quarter have experienced the biggest fall ever recorded, research company, Gartner, has stated.

Worldwide mobile phone sales totalled 269.1 million units in the first quarter of 2009, an 8.6% decrease from the first quarter of 2008, according to Gartner. Smartphone sales surpassed 36.4 million units, a 12.7% increase from the same period last year.

Carolina Milanesi, research director for mobile devices at Gartner, based in Egham, UK, stated: “There were some signs of a recovery in markets such as North America and China, but overall sales in the first quarter of 2009 registered the biggest quarter on quarter contraction since Gartner began monitoring the market on a quarterly basis in 2001. This was also the first time the market contracted year over year during the first quarter, a period traditionally helped by strong seasonality in the Asia-Pacific market.”

The channel intensified its efforts in the first quarter of 2009 to reduce the levels of stock it holds, as Gartner predicted in the fourth quarter of 2008. Stock reduction is intended to minimise capital investment in response to low consumer confidence. Sales into the channel were just short of 244 million units in the first quarter of 2009, while sales to users were just over 269 million units, a difference of 25 million units, compared with 17 million units in the fourth quarter of 2008, the biggest difference ever recorded. Gartner expects channel inventory reductions to continue into the second quarter of 2009, albeit with lower volumes.

Nokia continued to lead the mobile phone market, but its share dropped to 36.2% from 39.1% in the first quarter of 2008. Samsung retained second place and improved its market share as its sales totalled 51.4 million units. After dropping to the fifth position in the fourth quarter of 2008, Motorola overtook Sony Ericsson to regain fourth place.

Smartphone sales represented 13.5% of all mobile device sales in the first quarter of 2009, compared with 11% in the first quarter of 2008. Gartner analysts said positive performance by Research In Motion (RIM) and Apple showed that services and applications are now instrumental to smartphones’ success.

Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, based in Egham, UK, stated: “Much of the smartphone growth during the first quarter of 2009 was driven by touchscreen products, both in mid tier and high end devices. ‘Touch for the sake of touch’ was enough of a driver in the mid tier space, but tighter integration with applications and services around music, mobile email, and internet browsing made the difference at the high end of the market.”