The mobile device market is dominated by smartphones, according a recent study by Gartner. And among the mobile device brands, Apple, Samsung and HTC reported strong first quarter results.
As of the first quarter this year, total mobile devices sold to end-users reached 427.8 million units, representing a 19 per cent increase from the same period a year ago.
Smartphones represented 23.6 per cent of the overall sales for the quarter, for an 85 per cent increase year-on-year (YOY), said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst, Gartner. The share should have been higher, said Cozza, had not manufacturers announced forthcoming devices in the second quarter which made consumers decide to postpone purchase until the new models arrive.
Nokia remains a market leader with sales of 107.6 million mobile devices. However, its market share declined by 5.5 percentage points YOY.
Samsung was one of the top winners in the first quarter with Gartner noting its "strongest best quarter ever." The success was mainly due to the release of the Galaxy line, including the Galaxy smartphone and the Galaxy tablet.
HTC also recorded a "very strong" first quarter, Gartner said. But it was not enough to outdo Apple, which ranked fourth in sales overall among the mobile device manufacturers.
Apple saw its sales more than doubling YOY to reach 16.9 million units sold. It helped that it made the iPhone available to many countries, Gartner said.
"This strong performance helped Apple consolidate its position as the fourth largest brand in the mobile communication market overall," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president, Gartner. "Considering the higher than average price of the iPhone this is a remarkable result and highlights the impact that a strong aspirational brand can have on a product."
HTC's sales of 9.3 million mobile communication devices during the period moved it to the No. 7 position. Said Gartner: "Strong high-end products helped HTC perform well with all major US CSPs (communications service providers), and in the first quarter of 2011 it became the No. 2 smartphone manufacturer in the region, overtaking Research In Motion."
Android is the winner among operating systems (OSes) for smartphones for the period in review with 36.2 million units sold. Together with the Apple iOS and Symbian, they are the dominant OSes in the smartphone market.
However, Gartner noted the "big news" in the first quarter of 2011 - the Nokia-Microsoft alliance on Windows Phone 7, and the retirement of Symbian. "This will precipitate a competitors' rush to capture Symbian's market share in the mid-tier," said Cozza.
Despite doomsday forecasts after the Japan earthquake last March, Gartner said the earthquake will have "smaller effects" on the mobile device market.
The knee jerk reaction after the Japan earthquake was that the global supply of technology parts and supply will dampen market sales. Japan is a major supplier of parts and products for the IT and telecommunications industries.
However, Gartner said there are about six to seven weeks worth of inventory of finished products in the channel market and about four weeks' worth of inventory for components.
Even then, Gartner "estimates that manufacturers' sales into the channel will drop in the second quarter of 2011, while sales through to consumers will be flat".
Nokia will also face challenges from Android competitors and from some Japan-induced supply constraints, Gartner said.
OS-wise, competition is expected to heat up in the second quarter as Gartner noted the entry of devices in the mid-tier device market.
"A newly competitive mid-tier smartphone market will drive smartphones into mass adoption and accelerate this trend," Gartner said.
Among the manufacturers, HTC, Sony Ericsson, Alcatel and ZTE have already announced a broader portfolio of mid-tier devices, mainly based on the Android OS, which will reach the market in the second quarter of 2011, Gartner said.
Another interesting development to watch out for is the result of the alliance between Nokia and Microsoft.
Overall, however, Gartner said it is cautious in its forecast for the rest of the year because of emerging market trends.
"The 13.3 million-unit growth in channel inventory, along with some softness in demand from users in emerging markets registered at the start of the second quarter of 2011, is causing us to be cautious about sales in the remainder of the year," said Milanesi. "We are currently revising down our 2011 sales estimate as a result of these trends, and expect it will likely drop to between 1.790 billion and 1.795 billion units."