Smartphone sales up 13% in third quarter

Gartner projects sales of smartphones keep growing in the fourth quarter and beyond

Despite worldwide economic woes, smartphone sales to end users grew by 13% in the third quarter over the year-earlier period, pushing the overall mobile phone market to grow slightly in the period, Gartner Inc. said today.

"Smartphones continued to represent the fastest-growing segment of the mobile devices market and we remain confident about the potential for smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2009 and in 2010," said Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst, in a statement.

Gartner said that verall, 41 million smartphones were purchased by end users in the third quarter. Nokia was the top seller in the period, grabbing 39% of sales, Gartner said. Research in Motion accounted for 21% of smartphone sales during the period, its highest quarterly share yet, while iPhone maker Apple Inc. was third with 17% of sales.

Gartner predicted that iPhone sales should be strong again in the fourth quarter as Apples starts selling it in China and 16 other countries. Apple sold about 7 million iPhones in the third quarter.

The overall mobile phone market grew by only 0.1% during the third quarter, when 308.9 million devices were sold. Nokia led the way in the overall mobile phone market as well, accounting for 36.7% of sales, a slight decline from its year-earlier share of 38%. Nokia was followed by Samsung's 19.6% share, LG's 10%, Motorola's 4.5% and Sony Ericsson's 4.3%.

Milanesi said Gartner expects the overall mobile phone market to grow in the fourth quarter, citing new devices introduced for the Christmas sales season and new incentive programs from carriers. Nonetheless, she predicted that sales for the full year will likely be flat compared to 2008.

IDC also tracks the mobile phone and smartphones markets, but uses a somewhat different measurement than Gartner, counting shipments by manufacturers to carriers and other retailers rather than sales to end users.

Thus, IDC's research found that some 287 million mobile phones were shipped during the third quarter, down 6% from a year earlier.

IDC had also said earlier that 43 million smartphones were shipped in the third quarter, an increase of 4% over the third quarter of 2008.

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