Gartner cuts full-year handset sales forecast on inventory issues

Research firm Gartner said it expects global handset sales to be slightly less than it had previously forecast because of a buildup of unsold inventory. However, the firm also said that the industry will rebound in the second half of the year.

Gartner handset Q1 market share

Click here for details on Gartner's numbers.

According to Gartner's latest forecast, full-year handset sales will fall between 1.79 billion and 1.795 billion units, still an increase of 12 percent from 2010. Gartner's forecast is 10-15 million units lower than expected because inventories were built up in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and there are now higher than usual stocks of unsold phones. "During Q3 we think everything will go in place, and we will have a much stronger Q4 than we had for many years," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told Reuters.

Unlike many research firms that track handset "sell-in" to sales channels, Gartner tracks "sell-through" numbers to end-users. For the first quarter, Gartner said handset sales grew to 427.8 million units, up 19 percent from the year-ago period and driven by strong smartphone sales from the likes of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), HTC and Samsung. Smartphones accounted for 23.6 percent of overall handset sales in the first quarter, an increase of 85 percent from the first quarter of 2010, Gartner said.

In addition to taking a look at handset vendors, Gartner also tracked worldwide handset sales to end-users by smartphone operating system. In the first quarter, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform commanded 36 percent of the market, up from 9.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010. Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Symbian captured 27.4 percent of the market, down markedly from 44.2 percent in the year-ago period, a reflection of the conditions that precipitated Nokia's shift to Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 platform as Nokia's primary smartphone platform. Apple's iOS took in 16.8 percent of the market, up from 15.3 percent in the year-ago quarter, and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry took in 12.9 percent of the market, down from 19. 7 percent in the first quarter of 2010, a reflection of RIM's struggles to hold onto market share.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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IDC: ZTE pushes Apple out of No. 4 handset maker slot
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