Global demand for mobile devices still expected to reach 1.3 billion units in 2008 despite financial uncertainties, according to ABI Research

The fact many global economies are teetering on the brink of recession doesn’t appear to have diminished consumer demand for top-end mobile phones.

As the recent launch of the 3G iPhone demonstrated, the public appetite for the latest, most sophisticated smartphones is strong.

Now a report by ABI Research suggests that while handset sales in developed markets were flat, those that did purchase were willing to pay more for the newest smartphones.

As a result of this, it estimates that the mobile device market will deliver 13 per cent growth to take 2008 annual shipments to 1.3 billion units.

It shows that in the second quarter of 2008, Tier One handset vendors enjoyed year-over-year unit shipment growth of between 15 and 22 per cent.

An estimated 301 million units were shipped during the quarter, according to the analysts.

Jake Saunders, vice president of ABI Research, said: “If there is an economic slowdown, no one bothered to tell the mobile device buying public.

“In particular, consumers in emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America shrugged off inflation fears to sign up as mobile phone users.

“These healthy gains in net subscriber additions are stimulating replacement and upgrade sales.
“In developed markets handset purchases tended to be flat, but those consumers who did purchase dug deeper and paid out more for coveted higher-end handsets and smartphones.”

In terms of market share, the report Mobile Devices Market Sizing and Share, shows that Nokia has passed the 40 per cent threshold for the first time (40.3%).

Samsung secured second place with 15.2 per cent, while Motorola barely managed to keep ahead of LG with its 9.3 per cent versus LG’s 9.2 per cent, and both edged out Sony Ericsson (8.3 per cent).

There is a distinct possibility that LG might overtake Motorola by the end of 3Q 2008, putting Motorola into fourth place.

“There is admittedly turmoil in the global economy, but the mass market’s fascination with getting the latest and greatest handset shows no sign of abating,” said ABI’s research director Kevin Burden.

However, even with the expected 1H 2008 success of Tier One handset vendors – with Apple’s latest iPhone leading the charge – Nokia’s overall market share is likely to hold.

This is in large part down to it refreshing its portfolio in the mid-tier and high end categories and pretty much cornering the ultra-low cost handset market.

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