The global mobile phone market grew from both ends in the third quarter, with shipments of cheap, unbranded, phones surging while smartphone sales doubled.
Sales of Asian-made white-box handsets grew significantly in the September quarter, knocking more than 15 points from the combined market share of the top five handset makers, Gartner said.
The five - Nokia, Samsung, LG, Apple and RIM – saw their collective share fall to 66.9%.
“In the third quarter, white-box manufacturers continued to expand their reach outside of China into markets such as India, Russia, Africa and Latin America,” Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi said.
“We firmly believe this phenomenon will not be short-lived as we still see a continued need for non-3G devices,” she added, noting that Gartner expects sales volumes of the devices to grow even higher in Q4.
Nokia was particularly hard hit by the growth in unbranded device sales, due to its heavy mix of low-end handsets. The Finnish vendor’s share of worldwide mobile phone sales fell 8.5 points year-on-year to 28.2%, in a quarter in which it was also hit by a component shortage.
Total handset sales grew 35% as the influx of low-end phones stimulated sales in emerging markets, and smartphone sales hit 80.5 million – up 96% year-on-year.
A quarter of smartphones sold during the period were Android-based, with sales particularly strong in North America. Its share is up from just 3.5% a year ago.
Market share declined year-on-year for every other major smartphone OS, with Symbian's falling from 44.6% to 36.6%.
Even Apple's iOS dipped to 16.7% from 17.1%. But Apple outperformed RIM during the quarter, even in the latter's crucial North American market, and iOS is undergoing a “dramatic expansion with the iPad,” Milanesi said.