Recession brings changing of the guard in handset sector

Dylan Bushell-Embling
Telecom Asia

Thanks to the economic slump and the rise of the smartphone, power is shifting in the handset sector. In a shrinking market, LG and Samsung have wrestled share away from the old guard Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

Worldwide shipments fell 10.8% in the second quarter to 269.6 million phones, according to IDC.

But in the first green shoots of recovery, the market grew 4.7% over Q1 - the first sequential increase since Q3 2008, fellow research firm iSuppli said.

Market leader Nokia shipped 103.2 million mobile devices, down 15% over last year, and estimated its market share had dropped two points to 38%.

And while the Finnish giant sold as many devices as the next three biggest rivals, sales had been equal to its next four biggest rivals a year ago, IDC said. Nokia's operating profit had contracted by two-thirds to £80 million ($535 million).

Sony Ericsson unit shipments declined 43% to 13.8 million. It reported a net loss of 213 million ($299.6 million) as Sony Ericsson's market share fell back to around 5.1%, IDC said.

Motorola's mobile division continues to bleed red, with sales down 45% even as shipments held steady at 14.8 million, compared with 14.7 million in Q1.Motorola estimates its share of the handset market to be 5.5%.

But the No.2 and No.3 handset-makers, Samsung and LG Electronics, continued gain share.

Samsung said it had shipped 52.3 million phones,  up 14% and increased the average selling price 2% sequentially to $124. Samsung said it had increased its share of the worldwide handset market to around 20%.

LG sold a record 29.8 million handsets during the quarter, taking its share to 11.1% from 9.3% a year earlier. Meanwhile, Apple, while not a top five manufacturer, saw iPhone shipments soar 626% to 5.2 million, helped by the launch of the 3G S. Users had downloaded more than 1.5 billion applications from the App Store in its first year, CEO Steve Jobs said.

The company posted a $1.23 billion net profit, up 14% year-on-year, and expects to see similar profit this quarter.       

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