Contrary to dire predictions at the beginning of the year, the handset market did not crater, according to research firm Gartner. The firm said the global market for cell phones declined only 0.7 percent this year, to 1.2 billion units. However, smartphone sales grew at a slower rate than Gartner had predicted, and part of the blame might lie with handset industry leader Nokia.
According to Gartner, handset sales are expected to fall 0.67 percent this year, compared with 2008, an improvement from Gartner's September forecast of a 3.7 percent drop. Smartphone sales will make up 14 percent of all handset sales in 2009, according to Gartner, a nearly 24 percent increase from last year. However, that bump in smartphone sales fell short of the 29 percent increase the firm had been tracking for 2009.
Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner, said part of the slump was due to a lack of attractive smartphones from Nokia. She said that since customers who like Nokia products are not necessarily buying smartphones from other OEMs, the entire market got hurt. In the third quarter, Nokia's global smartphone market share fell from 41 percent to 35 percent.
However, the handset market appears poised for a major rebound next year. Gartner predicts a 9 percent rise in overall handset sales (which is in line with Nokia's prediction for 10 percent growth). Additionally, Gartner said that by 2013, 38 percent of all handset sales will be smartphones. The flip side is that this growth could be hampered if carriers decide to tie all smartphones to flat-rate data plans, which could hinder mass-market acceptance.
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