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Smartphone growth slows

Dec 5, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

The recession is hindering smartphone sales, says Gartner, which reported the segment's weakest year-on-year growth since the study began. Sales totaled 36.5 million in 3Q 2008, up 11.5 percent from 3Q 2007, but Linux's share held fairly steady at 7.2 percent from the previous quarter.

(Click for larger view of new Kogan Agora Android smartphone)

While a yearly growth rate of over 10 percent would be welcome in many tech industries, the smartphone industry was only recently growing at a 22 percent clip, according to Gartner, which noted the start of a slowdown in the previous quarter. Mobile carriers have been hoping to leverage smartphones to generate more lucrative service fees. Yet despite the fact that they have been subsidizing smartphones with lower prices, financially strapped consumers are balking at the hidden costs of two year contracts and high monthly data-plan rates, suggests the study.

Stated Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, “The current economic climate is negatively impacting sales of higher end devices. Going forward, we should expect the smartphone device market to continue to grow but at a slower pace.”

Symbian buried under iPhone/BlackBerry avalanche

In comparing operating system (OS) share, the study supports the widely held impression that Symbian, now owned fully by Nokia, is sliding badly. Since the last quarter, Symbian's share plunged from 57.1 percent to 49.8 percent, and year over year it dropped 12 percent from 63.1 percent, says Gartner. The decline was attributed to Nokia's decline in smartphone sales (its “by vendor” share dropped to 42.4 percent from 47.5 percent the previous quarter and 48.7 percent the previous year), as well as the “continued weakness of the Japanese mobile device market.” Earlier this week, a Nokia executive was quoted as saying that his company may move to Maemo Linux for some of its higher end smartphones.




3Q08 Market Share (%)



3Q07 Market Share (%)

3Q08- 3Q07 Growth (%)







Research In Motion




































Worldwide: preliminary smartphone sales to end users by vendor, 3Q08
(Thousands of Units. Source: Gartner)

According to Cozza, Nokia's “lack of a commercial touch-screen device in its smartphone portfolio prevented Nokia from capitalizing from consumer demand for this feature.” She noted, however, that Nokia may see a boost next year from its recently announced N97 smartphone.

The big winners, says Gartner, are Research in Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry OS, which has risen 81.7 percent from 9.7 percent to 15.9 percent year-over-year, and Apple's Mac OS X on the iPhone, which has soared 327.5 percent since last year from 3.4 percent to 12.9 percent share. The iPhone, which received a 3Q boost from its iPhone 3G, and the BlackBerry, which Gartner says should rise next quarter on the strength of its new Storm phone, also appear to have cut into the Windows Mobile and Linux share. Microsoft's OS share was said to have dropped from 12.8 to 11.1 percent, and Linux from 8.8 to 7.2 percent year over year.

Company 3Q08 Sales 3Q08 Market Share (%) 3Q07 Sales 3Q07 Market Share (%) 3Q08- 3Q07 Growth (%)


18,179 49.8 20,664 63.1 -12.0

Research In Motion

5,800 15.9 3,192 9.7 81.7

Mac OS X

4,720 12.9 1,104 3.4 327.5

Microsoft Windows Mobile

4,053 11.1 4,180 12.8 -3.0


2,622 7.2 2,884 8.8 -9.1

Palm OS

780 2.1 383 1.2 103.3


361 1.0 345 1.1 4.6


36,515 100.0 32,753 100.0 11.5

Worldwide: preliminary smartphone sales to end users by operating system, 3Q08
(Thousands of Units. Source: Gartner)

Compared to the previous quarter, Linux dropped only slightly, from 7.3 percent to 7.2 percent, but Windows Mobile sunk nearly a full percentage point from 12 to 11.1 percent, says Gartner, and it was overtaken by Apple in the number three OS position. According to the study, “open-source initiatives like Android and Symbian Foundation will challenge Windows Mobile's licensing model.” Gartner also notes that “the lack of a competitive user interface will continue to limit Microsoft's mobile device usability.”

too late to be counted

(Click for details)

The next quarter's numbers should reflect the impact of RIM's Storm, as well as HTC's G1 (pictured), the first phone to run the Linux-based Android stack. Cozza did not speculate in particular about the G1, but stated, “In 2009, application portfolios will become one of the key strategic considerations for smartphone market players.” The tight integration of popular Google apps, and a growing body of third-party open source software, are considered to be key strengths of Android.

According to Gartner, North America was the fastest growing market for smartphones last quarter, with a 68 percent increase sales. RIM and Apple together accounted for more than 70 percent of the North American market.

Is it a smartphone?
Motorola's new MotoRokr EM35

(Click for details)

As noted in our report on Gartner's 3Q study, the group's definition of “smartphone” may be undercounting a number of Linux models that come close to fitting the category. For example, Gartner does not count Linux phones that only run one application at a time, such as the such as Motorola's otherwise feature-full MotoRokr EM35.

Several research groups have recently predicted strong growth for Linux in the smartphone segment. A recent Canalys study showed the Linux smartphone share rising 49 percent since the previous year. Earlier this year, Strategy Analytics pegged the current Linux share of the smartphone market at 15 percent, and predicted more growth on the way, and ABI Research predicted that Linux will soar to a 23 percent smartphone share by 2013.


More information on the Gartner report “Market Share: Smartphones, Worldwide, 3Q08,” may be found here.

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