IDC: Global mobile phone shipments exceed 1 billion in '06

Mobile phone makers shipped more than 1 billion handsets for the first time in 2006, driven by a strong holiday season in which shipments rose nearly 20% to a record 295 million devices, research firm IDC, quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The report said the two biggest suppliers posted strong gains to boost their market shares in the quarter, with No.2 Motorola tightening the gap slightly with industry leader Nokia.

However, profit margins declined for both companies, the Associated Press report said.

The fourth-quarter activity drove the year's total shipments to 1.02 billion phones, up 22.5% from the 2005 tally of 833 million units, it said.

Emerging markets became a bigger factor in the industry's growth in 2006, accounting for more than half of all shipments, the report said.

Among leading vendors, Nokia shipped 105.5 million handsets in the fourth quarter, up 26% from year-earlier levels, to expand its share of the market to 35.8%. But with cheaper entry-level phones making up a large chunk of those shipments, the Finnish company saw profit margins decline from year-earlier levels.

Motorola shipped 65.7 million devices, a gain of 47% from the fourth quarter of 2005, increasing its market share to 22.3% vs. a year-ago level of 18.1%.

No. 3 Samsung's fourth-quarter shipments grew 17.6% to 32 million phones, its market share holding almost unchanged at nearly 11%.

The Associated Press report further said rounding out the top five, Sony Ericsson vaulted past LG into the No. 4 slot. Shipments soared 61.5% to 16.1 million handsets at Sony Ericsson, expanding its market share to 8.8% compared with 6.5 % a year earlier.