Apple, RIM poised to lead smartphone market

Smartphones are being positioned as the next wave of computing, with Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) well positioned to lead the space going forward.

In figures released Tuesday, analysts at RBC Capital Markets raised their smartphone penetration forecast to 35.1 per cent of global handsets, or 504 million units, by 2012, up from 395 million in prior estimates.

According to RBC, relative newcomer to the mobile space, Apple, which took the market by storm with the original iPhone and subsequent 3G and 3GS, is onto a winner with its model.

“We view the iPhone as a ten-year platform, with significant growth and share gains ahead. Our outlook reflects continued iPhone share gains in domestic and international markets, driven by distribution expansion, more innovations in devices and user experience, and additional iPhone SKUs,” said RBC. “Apple’s iTunes/iTunes Store/Device ecosystem remains a significant source of competitive advantage.”

Apple is estimated to have built an 11 per cent share of the smartphone market in 2008.

BlackBerry vendor RIM is also well positioned to lead the smartphone market, according to RBC, which said: “We believe RIM will continue to possess sustainable advantages in its intuitive, powerful “Crackberry” messaging and data experiences, reliability and battery life, and its NOC/ software/ hardware ownership.”

RIM accounted for 18 per cent of the smartphone market in 2008, according to RBC.

With global handset sales in decline, It’s been well documented that smartphones represent the next big growth market. Indeed, second quarter 2009 handset market data from Gartner shows lead player Nokia coming under increasing pressure as the smartphone sector outperforms the market. Overall handset shipments were down 6.1 per cent year on year for Q209, at 286.1 million but smartphone sales increased by 27 per cent to reach almost 41 million.

While Nokia leads the market overall – and is still number one in the high-growth smartphone sector – it is losing market share across the board. The Finnish vendor’s handset portfolio is skewed towards the low end, where the market is contracting, and Gartner said that Nokia’s flagship smartphone – the long-awaited N97 which it was hoped would cement Nokia’s position in the high end – “met with little enthusiasm at its launch” earlier this year.

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