Worldwide sales of mobile devices totaled 440.5 million units in the third quarter of 2011, up 5.6 percent from the same period last year, according to Gartner, Inc. Non-smartphone devices performed well, driven by demand in emerging markets for low-cost devices from white-box manufacturers, and for dual-subscriber identity module (SIM) devices.
Sales into the channel reached 460 million units. Gartner analysts said this increase was because of inventory build-up in the channel partly because of the shipping of new devices late in the quarter but mostly to prepare the channel for the holiday season. Gartner expects most of the build-up to be sold by the first quarter of 2012.
"Our forecast for the end of the year remains broadly in line at a worldwide level as regions such as Asia/Pacific and the Middle East and Africa make up for weaker performance in the Western European market," said Annette Zimmermann, principal analyst at Gartner based in Munich.
Smartphone sales to end users reached 115 million units in the third quarter of 2011, up 42 percent from the third quarter of 2010. Sequentially, smartphone sales slowed to 7 percent growth from the second quarter of 2011 to the third quarter of 2011. Smartphone sales accounted for 26 percent of all mobile phone sales, growing only marginally from 25 percent in the previous quarter.
"Strong smartphone growth in China and Russia helped increase overall volumes in the quarter, but demand for smartphones stalled in advanced markets such as Western Europe and the U.S. as many users waited for new flagship devices featuring new versions of the key operating systems," said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Slowdowns also occurred in Latin America and the Middle East and Africa."
"Some consumers held off upgrading in the third quarter because they were waiting for promotions on other new high-end models that were launched in the run-up to the fourth quarter holiday season," Ms. Cozza said. "Other consumers were waiting for a rumored new iPhone and associated price cuts on older iPhone models; this affected U.S. sales particularly."
Despite a drop in market share, Nokia continued to be the worldwide leader in mobile device sales as it accounted for 23.9 percent of global sales (see Table 1). The second quarter of 2011 was the low point for Nokia, and the third quarter brought signs of improvement. Dual-SIM phones in particular, and feature phones generally, maintained Nokia's momentum in emerging markets. Heavy marketing from both Nokia and Microsoft to push the new Lumia devices should bring more improvement in the fourth quarter of 2011. However, a true turnaround won't take place until the second half of 2012.