The worldwide market for converged mobile devices pushed past the 20 million unit mark during the fourth quarter of 2006, and past the 80 million unit mark for the year. According to IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 23.5 million devices during the fourth quarter of 2006, 33.5% more than the same quarter a year ago. For 2006, vendors shipped 80.5 million devices, 42.0% more than what they shipped in 2005.
"The robust growth in converged device shipments in 2006 was driven by substantially decreased price points and a greater selection of devices for consumers to chose from," said Ryan Reith, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. "Competitive pressures have driven price points below $200, making converged mobile devices more affordable to a broader base of users. More than ever before, vendors are focused on providing greater capabilities that differentiate their products while keeping costs in check."
The variety of functionalities "packed" into a converged mobile device these days is remarkable. "It's not uncommon for a converged mobile device these days to pack multiple features inside, including an embedded camera, MP3 player, GPS capability, and an expandable memory card slot," said Ramon Llamas, research analyst with IDC's Mobile Device Technology and Trends team. "As a result, the converged mobile device, once chiefly associated with enterprise usage, continues to find growth outside of the enterprise with the emerging 'prosumer' market segment."
Looking ahead, IDC maintains a positive outlook for converged mobile devices. "Lower prices and costs, coupled with raised interest among users, are a boon to nearly any market, and this one is no different. The key is to watch which vendors are taking which strategic steps in which regions in order to realize market share and profitability," added Llamas.
Top Five Converged Mobile Device Vendors -- Q4 2006
Nokia ended 2006 much the same way it began the year -- as the undisputed leader in the industry. Nokia's broad range of devices, ranging from the enterprise-oriented E-series to the multimedia-heavy N-series, has allowed the company to reach many users around the world. However, the company acknowledged that its presence among enterprise users, and among users in the Americas in general, had not lived up to expectations. To address these, Nokia announced several new E-series devices at 3GSM as well as the N75 targeted specifically for the Americas.
Research In Motion, whose BlackBerry devices have long been associated with enterprise mobility, took second place for both the quarter and the year. Much attention during Q4 went to RIM's BlackBerry 8100 Pearl, the company's first with an embedded camera and multimedia player. While the Pearl represented a departure from RIM's traditional models, its value proposition for enterprise connectivity and security remained the same particularly, since IT managers could disable media features. RIM recently announced a follow up to the 8100, the 8800, which removes the embedded camera and includes a full QWERTY keyboard.
Motorola improved its position as one of the worldwide leaders of converged mobile devices in 2006, thanks in large part to the success of its A1200 MING in China and the MotoQ in North America. The company expects the success of the MING to carry over into Latin America later in 2007, while two new MotoQ designs, one for North America and Europe and another for Asia and High-Growth Markets, were announced at 3GSM.
Sharp was a relative newcomer to the converged mobile device space at the end of 2005, but has since released a new device each quarter in Japan. The introduction of its SH 903i during Q4 boosted volumes, enough for Sharp to grab a share of the number three spot with Motorola this quarter. For the full year, Sharp's cumulative shipments were not enough for it to be counted among the top five vendors for 2006.
Panasonic finished the quarter as the number five vendor worldwide, but was the only vendor among the top five to post negative year on year growth. Still, this represented a reversal in its pattern of steadily decreasing shipment volumes in Japan for the year. At the same time, Panasonic earned the honor of being the worldwide leader in Linux-based converged mobile devices for the quarter, with its P903i bringing up volumes this quarter.