Mobile device shipments top 245m, on target to reach 1b by year-end

The second quarter of 2006 was a bit softer than expected in terms of handset shipments and prices, but ABI Research anticipates that the fourth quarter 2006 will prove a bumper quarter for mobile operators and handset vendors.

'The market topped 245 million mobile devices shipped in 3Q 2006 and the global mobile devices marketplace is on target to reach one billion devices by the year's end', said Jake Saunders, research director of ABI Research. 'The handset vendors are pulling out all the stops to get their slickest, flattest, largest music memory, biggest mega-pixel camera phones onto the shelves in time for the 4Q-2006 holiday jamborees.'

The market leaders, Nokia with a market share of 36%, Motorola (23.3%), Samsung (12.5%), Sony Ericsson (8.1%), and LG (6.7%), all increased market share at the expense of the smaller handset vendors.

Economies of scale, and marketing, it seems, are everything.

'Initiatives such as super thin phones have helped manufacturers such as Samsung and Motorola gain market share, but Nokia's ability to pump out phones for the emerging markets, cut handset average selling prices (ASPs), and exploit its brand image have served to maintain, and even boost, Nokia's market-share,' said principal analyst Stuart Carlaw.

The net result of this scramble for market share has been lower ASPs.

'The global weighted ASP dropped a steep 7.8% in the third quarter of 2006 compared to a 1.6% rise in the second quarter of 2006,' said Saunders, 'The fourth quarter of  2006 is unlikely to fare any better. The competition is cutthroat.'

3G handset shipment volumes proved to be a bit soft in the third quarter.

EDGE, which has been rolled out by a number of operators, has made the perceived performance gain of owning a 3G phone over a 2G GSM phone less distinct.

Also, a number of vendors and operators are planning a big overhaul of their 3G phone line up for the fourth quarter.

Recently Vodafone announced that it will be unveiling ten new phones for the festive season, six of which are 3.5G HSDPA-capable. HSDPA effectively 'turbo-charges' the 3G experience. HSPDA will dramatically change the download experience for end users wishing to download music, games, etc. The question is, will the turbo-charge kick in quickly enough‾