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Mobile handset sales up 6 per cent in 2002

Samsung leapfrogs

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Global mobile phone sales rose some 6 percent last year to 423.4 million units, according to new figures, and double-digit growth has been predicted for 2003.

The figures, published by Gartner Dataquest, showed that the fourth quarter of 2002 was particularly strong: mobile handset sales rose 14 percent over the year-earlier period, to 122.6 million units.

Gartner said the lack of mobile data services did not discourage users from upgrading their handsets: the new hardware, much of it featuring colour screens and extras like cameras, was enough to convince consumers to buy. Bryan Prohm, a senior analyst with the Mobile Communications Worldwide research group for Gartner Dataquest, said that this was an encouraging trend, and that the mobile market may prove stronger than expected during 2003.

Gartner Dataquest declined to reveal specific predictions for 2003, but it said it sees double-digit growth, which would mean sales of at least 465 million handsets this year. The company predicts that 3G handsets will not have much of an impact on sales during 2003, due to the delays in their rollout.

Nokia maintained a strong lead over other handset makers, raising its market share almost a full percentage point to 35.8 percent, which equated to sales of 151.4 million units. But Gartner warned that operators might now be wary of Nokia and its continued strength.

"Operators might fear Nokia's position, because a monopoly in a market is never good," said Carolina Milanesi, analyst with Gartner Dataquest. She said operators might begin to fear that Nokia will begin to "own" the customer, and that Nokia could start dictating technology, including what features and software go into the phones.

Milanesi noted that of the approved handsets for Vodafone Live, only the Nokia 7650 fails to carry any Vodafone branding. Both the Sharp and the Panasonic handsets carry a Vodafone badge, and the Sharp phone even carries a soft Vodafone Live button to connect users to Vodafone services. "Nokia believes it doesn't need the operators to increase market share," she said.

In second place behind Nokia was Motorola, which saw its sales rise 9.4 percent to 64.6 million units, equating to a market share of 15.3 percent. Gartner said that key product delays hampered Motorola's recovery during 2002, but that Motorola should still perform well this year, consolidating its leadership in the Americas and defending its market share in China.

Samsung saw its market share rise more than two full percentage to 9.8 per cent, and handset sales soared more than 47 percent to reach 41.6 million units.

Milanesi said Samsung could make a further leap forward if it were to launch a more affordable handset, particularly in the EMEA region, where it needs to strengthen its position. "They did talk earlier in the year about coming to market with a sub $100 product, but we have not seen it yet," she said.

© ENN

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