The worldwide mobile handset market continues to beat expectations and 2003 figures could exceed 510 million units, according to Gartner.
The estimate is based on manufacturers’ shipments to the distribution channel in the fourth quarter of 2003.
"2003 was a phenomenal year for the mobile phone industry, with an average growth rate of nearly 20%,” said Ben Wood, principal analyst with the mobile communications group for Gartner in Europe.
“The Sars virus had a significant effect on sales in Asia-Pacific during the second quarter, but sales picked up remarkably in the last two quarters.”
Gartner said sales exceeded expectations around the world. The mature markets, including the US, Western Europe and Japan, saw a surge in replacement sales.
In Japan, wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) and CDMA2000 phones sold particularly well, especially those featuring built-in cameras.
“In mature markets, replacement sales were the strongest driver of growth in 2003,” said Wood. "Colour screens and camera phones were high on consumers’ shopping lists, but there was also a high level of demand for inexpensive voice-centric handsets.”
In the emerging markets, such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, sales continued to surpass expectations because of very low-cost phones and operators’ aggressive strategies to win subscribers.
In India, for example, stronger-than-expected demand resulted in at least 18 million handsets being sold in 2003.
“As we enter 2004, the emerging markets will play an increasingly important role, and we expect manufacturers to continue developing low-cost products specifically for these markets.”
Gartner also revealed that early indicators during the first quarter of 2004 show that the positive trend in the mobile handset market is continuing.
Based on preliminary forecasts, Gartner said it was provisionally raising its forecast for mobile phone sales to 560 million in 2004.
Written by Computing SA staff