More than 423 million mobile phones were sold worldwide in 2002, 6-percent more than the previous year, Dataquest Inc., a unit of market-research firm Gartner Inc., reported on Monday.
The industry benefited from a strong Christmas season, selling nearly 123 million mobile phones worldwide in the fourth quarter -- a 14-percent increase from last year.
"It's excellent news for the industry. It shows there's still growth," Ben Wood, senior analyst for Gartner Dataquest in Europe, told Dow Jones Newswires.
Many industry observers had expected the mobile phone market to be more or less flat in 2002. Number-one industry player Nokia Corp. had pegged the market at about 405 million units, a slight increase over the 400 million handsets sold in 2001.
But more consumers than expected were lured into shops by flashy color screens and multimedia messaging (MMS), which allows photos and sound to be sent between mobile phones.
Although they didn't necessarily buy phones with these new features, the marketing blitz surrounding MMS, "got people out of their houses into the shops," said Mr. Wood.
He said that the mature markets in Europe and Asia-Pacific were more robust than expected, indicating healthy demand for replacement phones.
The data also set the stage for more bullish forecasts from mobile phone makers.
Siemens AG, the fourth-largest mobile-phone maker, has said it expects between 420-440 million mobile phones to be sold this year, but that was based the assumption that the market was flat last year.
Nokia increased its dominance in the fourth quarter, grabbing a market share of 36.8 percent, up from 35.9 percent in the third quarter. The Finnish company sold more than 45 million phones in the fourth quarter, more than its three nearest competitors combined. For the year, Nokia had market share of 35.8 percent.
Motorola Corp. remained in a strong second place with a market share for the year of 15.3 percent, but the gap between it and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. has narrowed. Samsung's 2002 market share was 9.8 percent. In 2001, Motorola had more than twice the market share of its Korean rival.
Still, Samsung slipped in the fourth quarter, when its market share fell to 9.5 percent from 10.6 percent in the third quarter. The drop was related to the end of subsidies by network operators in its home Korean market, Mr. Wood said.
Siemens continued its steady performance, increasing its market share in the fourth quarter to 8.2 percent from 7.8 percent in the third. For the year, the German company increased market share to 8.4 percent from 7.4 percent.
Overall, the top four companies increased their stranglehold over the market, with their combined market share rising to 69.3 percent in 2002 from 64.3 percent the previous year.
SonyEricsson, the handset joint venture between Sony Corp. and Telefon AB LM Ericsson, stabilized its position in the top five by increasing market share in the fourth quarter to 5.5 percent from 4.8 percent in the third quarter. But it still faces the threat of dropping out of the elite, with LG Electronics Inc. nipping at its heels, Mr. Wood said. (Dow Jones Newswires)
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