Worldwide mobile handset sales are likely to fall by less than 1% this year, Gartner has forecast.
It says stronger than expected sales in western Europe, and an acceleration in gray market sales in the third quarter, will take shipments to 1.21 billion units, down a 0.67% from 2008.
This compares with Gartner’s September forecast of a 3.7% decline over the year. Gartner expects 2010 sales to grow 9% over 2009.
It said the strong performance of Asia Pacific and west European markets was balanced by weaker than expected sales in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.
Research director Carolina Milanesi also said the rise in gray market sales would most affect market leader Nokia.
She said the gray market - or “white label”- phenomenon began in China with device manufacturers who did not have a licence to sell or make phones without a valid IMEI number. However, the market now extended well beyond China.
“All manufacturers will have to compete with gray-market players as they expand into emerging markets in Asia-Pacific, eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America and bring a lower weighted average selling price (ASP),” she said. “The grey market will affect Nokia’s market share the most.”