Smartphone market defies global economic recession

The global smartphone market – driven by Apple, Nokia and RIM – has apparently managed to defy the crushing economic recession.

According to ABI Research, the final quarter of 2009 was “remarkable” for the strength of smartphone shipment growth compared to the rather lackluster preceding nine months.

“4Q 2009 saw 25% more smartphones shipped than 3Q,” analyst Michael Morgan told TG Daily in an e-mailed statement. 

“Granted, the fourth quarter is usually better than the third, but 3Q saw only a 3.6% growth over the second quarter. The robust strength of this market’s recovery is very encouraging.”

Indeed, individual vendors certainly have plenty to be pleased about. Apple experienced its best smartphone quarter on record, RIM’s BlackBerry managed a strong showing and Nokia shipped 21 million smartphones compared to its usual 15-16 million.

“The good performance was driven in part by falling smartphone prices and the introduction of entry-level smartphones generating greater appeal for new buyers. Nokia effectively used its best weapon, economies of scale [and] the iPhone maintained its ‘cool factor’ leverage,” said Morgan.

“There were some under-reported over-achievers such as the BlackBerry Curve, which has actually out-sold the iPhone in some markets. Both companies benefited from expansion beyond their traditional North American market, increasingly gaining traction in Western Europe and East Asia: Asia-Pacific iPhone sales increased about 500% year-over-year in 2009.”

Morgan noted that North America – helped by mobile operators’ subsidies – “led the pack” in smartphone market growth at 30%, with Western Europe and APAC following considerably behind. Meanwhile, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America all showed growth in the mid-high 20 percents.

“The United States is now the leading market for smartphone ‘mindshare.’ Vendors view success there as a springboard to success in the rest of the world,” he added.