Camera phones tempt European handset buyers

Sales up 166% last quarter

Camera phones are beginning to revitalise the European cellphone market, bringing consumers back into shops to buy new handsets. So says market watcher Canalys, which today reported that shipments of camera phones jumped 166 per cent during the second quarter over the same period last year.

Just under 3.9 million camera phones shipped in Europe during Q2, up from just over 1.4 million in Q2 2002.

Doubly impressive, this growth, when it comes at a time when the European handset market overall remains "stagnant", according to Canalys.

The camera phone market is also a genuinely mixed bag, with high-end handsets selling as well as low-end models. But Canalys warned that the latter represent a greater threat than they might have in the past, as network operators push cheaper phones in order to minimise subsidies and encourage the use of pricey multimedia messaging services. No-name vendors are also happier for networks to re-brand their handsets.

Not that Nokia and co. appear to have much to worry about just yet. Nokia took a healthy 42.6 per cent of the European camera phone market during Q2, followed by Sony Ericsson on 22.1 per cent and Samsung on 10.5 per cent. Sharp (9.7 per cent) and Panasonic (7.4 per cent) complete the top five vendors list - all the rest account for just 7.7 per cent of the market, some 295,520 units.

Among the latter is Motorola, which has failed to hop onto the camera phone bandwagon as quickly as its Japanese and European rivals. The company launched its first cameraphone, the E365, last month. The E365 integrates the digicam into the body of the phone; previous Motorola handsets have simply offered cameras as plug-on optional extras. It's clear that European punters, at least, want their cameras built in. ®

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