Nokia leads vendor sales in first quarter despite falling sales

According to research firm, Gartner, Nokia is still top of the marketshare tree in the first quarter, even though sales at the company dropped to the lowest point in two years.

Nokia continued to lead the mobile phone market, but its share dropped to 36.2% from 39.1% in the first quarter of 2008. Nokia’s worldwide sales reached 97.4 million units in the first quarter of 2009, thanks to reductions in inventory in markets such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America. This was the first time Nokia’s sales dipped below 100 million units since the first quarter of 2007. The real impact of the current market recession was on the average selling price (ASP), which saw an 18% drop year over year. Nokia managed to grow its sales in the smartphone segment by introducing the Nokia 5800 into more regions.

Samsung had a very successful first quarter of 2009. With sales of 51.4 million units, Samsung’s market share grew 4.7 percentage points to 19.1%. It returned to double digit profitability due to a good product mix. Sales of its Omnia, Tocco and Pixon handsets continued to benefit from strong consumer interest in touchscreen devices. The arrival of the Tocco Ultra Edition late in the first quarter of 2009, and the announcement of its first Android-based product, the i7500, will help Samsung in a highly competitive second half of 2009.

LG sold 26.5 million units in the first quarter of 2009, growing its market share by 1.9 percentage points year over year. The company benefited from a very strong portfolio of touchscreen, messaging and imaging devices. The new LG Arena device showcases a new user interface that demonstrates a positive focus on improving usability. However, Gartner said LG’s biggest challenge is to become competitive in the smartphone segment as services and applications become more important to customers.

Motorola continued to experience significant difficulties even in its home market, but it had a solid quarter with prepaid operators Boost Mobile and Tracfone. It expects worldwide sales of iDEN handsets to be up 50% in 2009 compared with 2008. These factors will help sustain Motorola until it revamps its portfolio in the fourth quarter of 2009. Motorola has committed to Android not only to revamp its position in the second half of 2009, but also to produce long term performance improvements. Gartner analysts question how Motorola will be able to differentiate its offering when so many players in the mobile device market will be delivering Android-based products at the same time.

Sony Ericsson lost market share compared both with the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2008, with sales of 14.5 million units. While the recession contributed to this decline, a weak product portfolio was also a factor. The product features that helped Sony Ericsson become one of the world’s top vendors — imaging and music — are now too common to serve as a differentiator. Sony Ericsson is late to catch on to the popularity of touchscreen devices and has a limited smartphone portfolio. While its focus on services through Play Now Arena is important, Sony Ericsson needs to ensure its devices include the most desirable applications and features for consumers.

Symbian accounted for 49.3% of worldwide smartphone operating systems (OS) market share in the first quarter of 2009, down from 56.9% share in the first quarter of 2008. RIM’s smartphone OS market share reached 19.9% in the first quarter of 2009, up from 13.3% share in the first quarter of last year. The iPhone OS accounted for 10.8% of the market, up from 5.3% market share in the first quarter of 2008.

Carolina Milanesi, research director for mobile devices at Gartner, said: “With inventory reduction efforts expected to continue in the second quarter of 2009, although to a lesser extent than what we have seen so far, and better than expected figures for the first quarter of 2009, we remain confident that overall sales to users for 2009 will remain considerably higher than the sell-in that many vendors are expecting. Device vendors will focus increasingly on smartphones, improved user interfaces and services to differentiate themselves and fuel consumer demand. We maintain our view that sales to users will decrease by about 4% for 2009 compared with 2008, while sell-in will slow to around a 10% decrease.”