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Electronics Production | March 05, 2007

Global mobile phone shipments<br>grow 21% in 2006, says Gartner

Sales of mobile phones to end users fell short of one billion units as inventory levels built in the channels in the last quarter of 2006, according to Gartner.
This high volume was partly in preparation for the Chinese New Year, but also the result of some manufacturers introducing products late in the quarter, noted the research firm.

Worldwide mobile phone sales surpassed 990.8 million units in 2006, a 21.3% increase from 2005 when sales reached 816.6 million units. In addition, vendors outside the top six continued to lose market share and accounted for 14% of the worldwide mobile phone sales in 2006, down 5% from 2005.

In the fourth quarter of 2006, mobile phone sales growth slowed slightly compared to previous year-end rates. Sales accounted for 284.2 million units and grew 21% from the fourth quarter of 2005. The fourth quarter was characterized by a continuation of the trends seen earlier in the year as users in mature markets like Western Europe and North America were won over by slimmer phones and handsets with many features. In emerging markets, more first-time users joined mobile networks.

Nokia's worldwide sales in the fourth quarter of 2006 reached 103 million units, giving the Finnish manufacturer a 36.2% market share. This is a rise of 1.2 percentage points over the same period in 2005. In 2006, Nokia sold close to 345 million mobile phones and achieved a market share of 34.8%, a 2.3 percentage point increase over 2005.

Motorola grew its market share in the fourth quarter of 2006, selling just over 61 million mobile phones to end users across the world and achieving a market share of 21.5%. The year started well for Motorola as it benefited from the success of Razr in most markets in 2005. Unfortunately, the momentum slowed in the second half of the year.

Although traditionally not a strong quarter for Samsung, the fourth quarter saw sales of 32 million mobile phones and an 11.3% market share. Overall sales in 2006 were slightly more than 116 million units, a 12% increase from 2005.

Sony Ericsson finished the year with a strong quarter, selling 25.7 million mobile phones across the world and reaching a market share of 9%, a 2.1 percentage point increase over the same period in 2005. Overall sales for the year reached 73.6 million units and market share grew by 1.1 percentage points to 7.4%.

LG saw the gap between itself and Sony Ericsson widen further in the last quarter of 2006 as it sold 17.8 million mobile phones and reached a market share of 6.3 percent. Although the Chocolate phone continued to sell relatively well, LG relied on it to drive sales.

In the fourth quarter of 2006, BenQ Mobile dropped out of the top six players into ninth place. Parent company BenQ has stated that the company will focus away from Europe and limit itself to markets in Asia.

Sales in Asia-Pacific showed signs of slowing down in the fourth quarter, in line with a seasonal trend that does not favor the last quarter of the year in this region. Sales reached 87.7 million units, a 56% rise from fourth quarter of 2005. 2006 sales totaled 301 million units, up 47% from 2005 sales. Slim phones sold well throughout the region, while entry-level phones and ultra low-cost phones proved popular in India, China and the Philippines.

In the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region, mobile phone sales continued to grow in the fourth quarter of 2006. End users bought 52.4 million new mobile phones during the quarter. This was 13% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2005. In recent months, Samsung and LG increased their focus on emerging markets and tried to challenge the duopoly that Motorola and Nokia have established in the ultra-low-cost segment in particular.

In Japan, mobile terminal sales to end users in the fourth quarter of 2006 accounted for 13 million units, an increase of 10.9 % from the fourth quarter of 2005. Mobile number portability was launched in Japan on 24 October 2006, and more than 800,000 users changed operators during the fourth quarter.

Mobile phone sales to end users in Latin America totaled nearly 34.5 million units. Year-over-year sales were up 13.5%. Full-year sales growth was up 16%, driving the market to 118 million units. Net additions in the entire region's larger markets have slowed substantially. Even Colombia, which yielded impressive growth during the first half of the year, slowed.

Sales in North America remained very strong, with a record 44.8 million units sold to end users in the fourth quarter of 2006. Sales continue to be driven by the replacement cycle as consumers upgrade their devices to more fashionable slim ones or to phones with more features.
In line with seasonal trends, Western Europe saw a very strong end to the year, with sales in the fourth quarter of 2006 reaching 51.8 million phones. Consumers continued to keep up with fashion and features, and upgraded their mobile phones to newer ones. Christmas sales were not about a single product, as it was in 2005, when a pink Motorola Razr V3 was the phone to have for the holidays. Christmas in 2006 was more about choice, with popular products from Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson alike. Sales in Western Europe reached 175 million mobile phones in 2006, a 7% increase from 2005.

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