The global mobile phone market grew 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the lowest annual growth rate in the past two years, because of soft demand for feature phones, according to analysts at research firm International Data Corp (IDC).
Cellphone vendors shipped 427.4 million units in the fourth quarter of last year compared to 402.8 million units in the same period of 2010, as the feature phone market declined faster than anticipated, according to IDC.
The 6.1 percent year-on-year growth was higher than IDC’s forecast of 4.4 percent for the quarter, but weaker than the 9.3 percent growth in the third quarter of last year.
“The mobile phone market exhibited unusually low growth last quarter, which shows it is not immune to weaker macroeconomic conditions worldwide,” said Kevin Restivo, a senior research analyst at IDC.
“The introduction of high-growth products, such as the iPhone 4S, which shipped in the fourth quarter, bolstered smartphone growth,” Restivo said.
“Yet overall market growth fell to its lowest point since the third quarter of 2009, when the global economic recession was in full bloom,” Restivo added.
While smartphones continue to grow in popularity, feature phones still accounted for a majority of shipments from four of the five market leaders during the fourth quarter, because of lower prices and ease of use, the research firm said.
IDC said that Samsung Electronics Co, HTC Corp (宏達電) of Taiwan and LG Electronics Inc have dominated the Android smartphone market in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding China, while Windows Phones also gained some momentum in the region thanks to sales of the HTC Titan and the HTC Radar, as well as the Nokia Lumia series.
HTC also made important gains in the North American market with the launch of long-term evolution smartphones, along with similar models from LG, Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc and Samsung, the research firm said.
Among the top five vendors, Nokia Corp remained in first place with a 26.6 percent share during the fourth quarter, but the Finnish cellphone maker continued to lose ground to rivals as its new Lumia Windows Phones had captured fewer users than the company anticipated.
South Korea’s Samsung trailed closely, with a 22.8 percent market share, as it broke the 90 million unit mark for the first time in a single quarter, while Apple Inc jumped from fifth to the third spot with an 8.7 percent share globally, thanks to the wide availability of the iPhone 4S.
South Korean manufacturer LG Electronics Inc and China’s ZTE Corp (中興) ranked fourth and fifth, taking 4.1 percent and 4 percent shares, respectively, with fewer than 1 million units separating the two vendors.