Worldwide smarpthone sales to end users reached 54.3 million units in the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 48.7% from the first quarter of 2009, according to Gartner. Mobile phone sales totalled 314.7 million units, a 17% increase from the same period in 2009.

Gartner report "Competitive Landscape: Mobile Devices, Worldwide, 1Q10" shows that among the most successful vendors were those that controlled an integrated set of operating system, hardware and services.

"In the first quarter of 2010, smartphone sales to end users saw their strongest year-on-year increase since 2006," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner.

Q1 2010 saw RIM, “a pure smartphone player”, make its debut in the top five mobile devices manufacturers, and saw Apple increase its market share by 1.2 percentage points. Android’s momentum continued into the first quarter of 2010, particularly in North America, where sales of Android-based phones increased 707% year-on-year.

According to the report, growth in the mobile devices market was driven by double-digit growth of smartphone sales in mature markets, helped by wider product availability as well as mass market price tags.

“Increasing sales of white-box products in some emerging regions, in particular India, also drove sales of mobile phones upward. We expect sales of white-box products to remain very healthy for the remainder of 2010, especially outside of China,” said Milanesi.

The first quarter also saw some movement outside the top five mobile handset vendor rankings: Hong Kong-based manufacturer G-Five made its debut into the top 10, grabbing 1.4% of market share

The rise of white-box manufacturers from Asia has also helped the "others" section, as a proportion of overall sales, increase its market share to 19.20%, up 2.7 percentage points.

“This is having a profound effect on the top five mobile handset manufacturers’ combined share that dropped from 73.3 in the first quarter of 2009 to 70.7% in the first quarter of 2010,” said Milanesi.

In Q1 2010, Nokia‘s mobile phone sales to end users reached 110.1 million units, a 1.2% decline in market share year-on-year. Although Nokia’s midtier products sold well, Nokia lacks a high-volume driver in the high-end, according to the analysts.

“MeeGo based devices and other high-end products will not rejuvenate Nokia’s premium portfolio until the end of the third quarter of 2010 at the earliest, and Nokia will continue to feel pressure on its average selling price (ASP) from vendors such as HTC, RIM and Samsung,” said Milanesi.

The reorganisation announced last week demonstrated that Nokia is trying to streamline the reporting process to deliver results quickly, which Gartner believes shows its recognition of the pressure it faces from investors.

Samsung sold 64.9 million devices in Q1 2010, an increase of 26.3% year-on-year. Samsung was one of the five vendors in the top10 vendors ranking to grow its market share, which increased by 1.5 percentage points year-on-year.

RIM’s mobile phone sales reached 10.6 million units, a 45.9% increase year-on-year. RIM is making its debut into the top five worldwide mobile handset manufacturers ranking. RIM’s focus this quarter was centred on its ecosystem strategy, its tightly integrated control of store, OS and device played to RIM’s strengths, according to the report.

The reports also shows that the first quarter of 2010 was Apple’s strongest quarter yet, which placed the company in the No. 7 position with a 112.2% increase in mobile devices sales.

“Growth came partly from new communication service providers in established markets, such as the UK, and stronger sales in new markets such as China and South Korea,” said Milanesi.

She claims that the second quarter of 2010 will be a very important one for Apple. “We expect that Apple will present its new iPhone in June during its Worldwide Developer Conference, which will be the first to feature the latest release of the iPhone OS that includes welcome improvements for developers and users, such as multitasking,” she said.

OS market
In the smartphone OS market, Android and Apple were the winners in Q1 2010. Android moved to the No. 4 position displacing Microsoft Windows Mobile for the first time. Both Android and Apple were the only two OSs vendors among the top five to increase market share year-on-year.

Symbian remained in the No. 1 position but continued to lose as Nokia remains weak in the high-end portfolio.

Smartphones accounted for 17.3% of all mobile handset sales in the first quarter of 2010, up from 13.6% in the same period in 2009.

“As seen with the iPad and web books based on Google’s Android platform, mobile OS ecosystems are developing and will move beyond smartphones to continue to deliver consumer value and a rich user experience,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.

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