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Apple 'niche player' in touchscreen phone biz, says analyst

Samsung, Motorola dominate

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Apple's iPhone may have boosted awareness of touchscreen handsets, prompting a 91 per cent increase in sales between 2007 and 2006, but it's still just a "niche player", one market watcher reckons.

ABI Research this week highlighted that leap in demand for touchscreen phones, noting that while the increase is global, handsets with touch-sensitive screens are particularly popular in Asia.

Hence Apple's niche status: until the launch of the iPhone 3G, the Mac maker's handset hasn't been available - officially, at any rate - in Asian countries. They accounted for 80 per cent of touchcreen phone sales over the past 12 months, ABI said.

Touchscreen phones from Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson have, however, which is why these companies dominate this segment of the market, despite Apple's marketing successfully associating in the minds of Western consumers touchscreen technology with the iPhone.

According to ABI, Samsung and Motorola are effectively level-pegging, with 33 per cent and 30 per cent of the world touchscreen phone market, respectively. Add on the 24 per cent share taken by Sony Ericsson, and there's not much room left for the rest.

That's now. With the iPhone 3G enjoying far greater geographical sales coverage than its predecessor did, and with the debut of a touchscreen BlackBerry, there's going to be plenty of pressure on the emcumbents over the coming 12 months.

That said, Samsung for one, has been driving touchscreen technology hard, releasing a raft of phones - from the Armani to the Tocco and, most recently, the Omnia - that use big, finger-friendly screens instead of traditional keypads. It's hard to see Samsung being knocked off the top slot, but the picture looks less certain for the other major phone makers.

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