Mobile phone sales drop for first time since 2009

The number of mobile phones sold globally has declined year on year for the first time since 2009, according to research revealed today. Gartner released figures for 2012 that showed 1.75 billion handsets were sold during the calendar year, a 1.7 per cent decline on 2011.

Smartphones continued to drive overall mobile phone sales, and the year finished well with smartphone sales reaching 207.7 million units, up 38.3 per cent from the same period of 2011.

Demand for feature phones remained weak with sales totaling 264.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, down 19.3 percent year-on-year, and Gartner expects feature phone sales to continue to fall in 2013.

Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, blamed tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition for weakening in the mobile phone market.

He added that the race to become the number three smartphone manufacturer is wide open, with Apple and Samsung a long way ahead of the pack. The two firms together raised their worldwide smartphone market share to 52 percent from 46.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012, according to Gartner’s research.

Samsung ended the year in the number one position, in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales and commanded over 42.5 per cent of the Android market globally, while the next Android manufacturer had just six per cent share.

“The Android brand is being overshadowed by Samsung’s brand with the Galaxy name nearly a synonym for Android phones in consumers’ mind share,” said Gupta.

“The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products. Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand.”

In the fourth quarter of 2012 Chinese firm Huawei claimed the number three spot for the first time, Gartner said. The firm sold 27.2 million smartphones in 2012, up 73.8 per cent on 2011. Gartner said international markets are key for Huawei’s growth in 2013, as well as being able to improve its product mix to a higher tier.

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