Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker, said on Thursday that its first-quarter profit rose 21 percent from a year earlier as sales surged in North America and Asia.
Nokia said sales almost doubled in North America amid demand for the N70, a high-end imaging phone that is compatible with the latest high-speed networks. Sales of more basic models gave an earnings lift to the company in China.
The company, which is based in Espoo, Finland, also said that its market share increased to 35 percent, from 34 percent in the previous quarter, and from 32 percent in the first quarter a year earlier.
"It's clear that global demand for handsets is a lot stronger than the market had expected," said Mattias Cullin, an analyst at HQ Bank in Stockholm. "Nokia is profiting by building up its lead in emerging markets and with smartphones."
Net income at Nokia rose to 1.05 billion euros (US$1.29 billion), compared with 863 million euros in the year-earlier period. Sales increased 29 percent in the quarter, to 9.5 billion euros. In China, Nokia's phone sales surged 54 percent to 10.9 million units, and in North America, Nokia sold 8.4 million cellphones, up 95 percent.
Strategy Analytics, a research company in London, said on Thursday that global shipments of cell phones rose 31 percent in the latest quarter, to 229 million units, the first time the 200 million level had been breached in the first quarter. According to a Strategy Analytics estimate, Nokia had a 32.8 percent share, followed by Motorola with 21 percent, Samsung with 12.7 percent, LG with 6.8 percent and Sony Ericsson with 5.8 percent.
In a conference call with reporters, Nokia's chief executive, Jorma Ollila, said first-quarter growth showed that consumers were starting to embrace the audio, video and data services being sold over the new third-generation networks.
"The 3G market has really been taking off," Ollila said. "Our investment in 3G is really starting to pay off."
Poul Ernst Jessen, an analyst at Danske Securities, in Copenhagen, Denmark, said Nokia's sales suggested that 3G phones might be entering the mainstream.
"Nokia's results show that 3G is more than just hype now," he said. "It's actually selling."