Gartner: Smartphone sales increase disappoints

Smartphones grabbed a smaller-than-expected part of overall mobile phone sales in 2009, and Nokia is largely to blame, according to market research company Gartner.

In 2009, smartphones will represent 14 percent of overall unit sales to end users, a 24 percent increase from 2008. However, Gartner had expected smartphones to increase their share even more, according to Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner.

“We were counting on a 29 percent [increase] for 2009, and up to [the second quarter] we were right on track,” said Milanesi.

But the third quarter was a disappointment—mainly due to Nokia’s lack of attractive high-end smartphones. And consumers who like Nokia’s products are not necessarily buying smartphones from other vendors, so the market is taking a hit, according to Milanesi.

Still, in 2013 more than every third phone sold will be a smartphone, unless mobile operators persist at packaging smartphones with flat-rate data plans, which could put the total cost out of reach for many consumers, according to Milanesi.

Overall, sales of mobile phones to consumers are expected to drop by less than 1 percent in 2009 and total about 1.2 billion units, according to Gartner.

The market was helped by an increase in sales in Western Europe, North America and the Asia and Pacific region.

However, the downturn resulted in consumers paying less for their new mobile phones. In Western Europe the average sales price per phone dropped by $10 to $185, when comparing 2009 to last year, Milanesi said.

Next year mobile phone sales will start to grow again, by about 9 percent, Gartner predicts. Also, the average sales price per phone will only drop by $2, it said.

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