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Smartphones sales on the up in Q1

Lesser-handset sales on the slide

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Global smartphone sales grew by 12.7 per cent during the first quarter this year, but at the expense of a 9.4 per cent dip in sales of less advanced handsets, market watcher Gartner has concluded.

Over 36.4m smartphones were sold during Q1, although traditional talkers still outperformed more the advanced models with total sales of 269.1m during the same period.

However, buyers of HTC’s G1, the iPhone and their ilk helped push up smartphone sales and the group represented 13.5 per cent of all mobile sales during Q1, compared 11 per cent in Q1 2008.

“Much of the smartphone growth during the first quarter of 2009 was driven by touchscreen products”, said Gartner principal analyst Robert Cozza.

Gartner has identified two smartphone genres. An entry-level smartphone that’s “closer to an enhanced phone in specification” and which has an open OS, such as Nokia’s N76 – reviewed here.

A true smartphone, though, has an open OS supported by third-party applications and a range of high-end features, such as web browsing, mobile TV, navigation and video playback.

Mid-tier smartphone buyers are happy with touchscreen phones alone, Cozza added, but high-end device buyers demand more features for their cash, apparently, including “tighter integration with applications and services around music, mobile email and internet browsing”.

Nokia, unsurprisingly, led both sectors with a 41.2 per cent share of the smartphone market during Q1 and 36.2 per cent of the standard handset sector. It sold 14.99m smartphones in all – fractionally down on Q1 2008's total.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion took second position in the smartphone rankings, with a 19.9 per cent market share – up 6.6 percentage points — and total sales of 7.23m units.

Apple almost doubled its smartphone market share between the two year-apart quarters, jumping from 5.3 per cent in Q1 2008 to 10.8 per cent in Q1 2009. It sold 3.94m iPhones, up from 1.73m in the year-ago quarter.

For the rest of 2009, Gartner expects phone firms to focus increasingly on smartphone devices, better UIs and services that differentiate themselves from rivals. ®

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