Gartner: Mobile phone sales down 4 percent in Q1

Global mobile phone unit sales continued to slide in the first quarter of 2002, a quarter that also saw falling sales -- albeit a tiny increase in market share -- for the long-dominant Nokia, according to a study released Wednesday by Gartner's Dataquest division.

Worldwide sales of mobile phones fell by 3.8 percent to 93.8 million units in the first three months of 2002 as compared to the same quarter last year, Gartner Dataquest said in a statement.

Gartner Dataquest, located in San Jose, California, pegged Nokia's market share at 34.7 percent with 32.5 million units sold in the first quarter, a 2.9 percent decline in handset sales from the same period last year when the Espoo, Finland, company sold 33.5 million terminals for a 34.4 percent share of the market.

Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Siemens AG all saw growth in market share, while newcomer Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB was able to sell 6 million units in the quarter for a 6.4 percent share of the mobile market, Gartner Dataquest said.

In particular, Samsung and Siemens made strong gains in the quarter. Samsung experienced unit sales growth of 48.6 percent to take 9.6 percent of the mobile market with 9 million units sold in the quarter, as compared to a 6.2 percent share on sales of 6.1 million in the first quarter of 2001 for the Seoul electronics company, Gartner Dataquest said.

Gartner Dataquest attributed Samsung's growth to its success in delivering products that consumers found compelling while at the same time taking advantage of a number of technologies in a variety of markets.

Siemens, the Munich electronics and engineering giant, grew its unit sales 24.2 percent to hold 8.8 percent of the market with sales of 8.2 million units as compared to 6.8 percent market share in the first quarter of 2001 with sales of 6.6 million handsets, Gartner Dataquest said.

Siemens is poised to expand on its maket share in 2002 with a competitive push in the North American and Latin American GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) markets, Gartner Dataquest said.

Despite the good news for Samsung and Siemens, the overall picture for the mobile devices market was one of decline due to market saturation -- particularly in Western Europe -- and customer hesitation over the purchase of newer data-capable phones, Gartner Dataquest said.

Consumers are not convinced that the benefits of data applications and services warrant the expense of upgrading their handsets, creating an "applications gap," Gartner Dataquest said.

Last March, Gartner Dataquest reported mobile-phone sales for all of 2001 fell 3.2 percent, the first-ever decline in an industry that saw a compound annual growth rate of close to 60 percent between 1996 and 2000. [See "Dataquest: Mobile-phone sales fall for the first time," March 11.]In the first quarter of 2002, the mobile markets in Western Europe and Latin America were especially sluggish with the two regions suffering declines in year-on-year sales for the second year running, Gartner Dataquest said.

Conversely, the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, beat expectations with a year-on-year increase of 8 percent in the first quarter and an even better 12 percent growth spirt when compared to the fourth quarter of 2001, Gartner Dataquest said.

Also on a brighter note, mobile shipments into the channel totaled 90.3 million units in the first quarter of 2002, up 11.8 percent from the first quarter of 2001, Gartner Dataquest said. The stronger "sell-in" was attributed to subscriber growth in Russia and other emerging markets in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, boosting retail sales and creating "a healthier global inventory situation," Gartner Dataquest said.