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Western European Mobile Phone Market Now in Recession

05 марта 2009

Three consecutive quarters of negative growth have led the Western European mobile phone market into recession. According to IDC's European Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped 53.6 million units in 4Q08, 13.5% lower than the 62 million units shipped in 4Q07. For the full year 2008, vendors shipped 190.5 million units in Western Europe, 5.9% lower than the 202.5 million units shipped in 2007.

"The fourth quarter was the worst quarter ever experienced by phone makers, and a storm of factors led to this," said Francisco Jeronimo, research manager with IDC's European Mobile Devices and Trends service. "A combination of weak end-user demand, currency volatility, and limited credit availability prevented the market from experiencing the usual seasonal increase in shipments. The traditional holiday campaigns and new product launches were not enough to boost sales in comparison with previous years and almost all vendors experienced a significant slump in sales. We expect the first half of 2009 to be very challenging as vendors and distributors grapple with clearing inventory. Should these conditions persist, the mobile phone market may not recover until the middle of 2010."

If there was one highlight in 4Q08 it was that the converged mobile devices segment (commonly referred to as smartphones) grew 25.9% over 4Q07, clearly outpacing the rest of the industry. For full year 2008, converged mobile devices saw growth of 36.1%, representing 17.4% of the total market. Despite the good performance, converged mobile device growth was still not strong enough to support the entire sector.

"In mature markets such as Western Europe, converged mobile devices are seen by end users as a good proposition to replace their handsets," said Jeronimo. "Features that enable productivity in both professional and personal lives are leading more users towards mobility and this is what makes the segment unique and unlike the rest of the market. Data attachment rates for these devices is well beyond that of traditional mobile phones, and the devices and services catering to this segment were more readily available than ever before in 2008. As long as operators can continue to subsidize these devices, and developers continue to enhance applications, then this segment will be a silver lining to an otherwise gloomy market."

With clear expectations that 2009 will be more difficult than 2008, handset vendors, chipset manufacturers, and operators will all have to work in sync to rebuild consumer interest in mobile spending.

"Vendors are not taking this situation lightly, and are undertaking plans to run lean and maintain user interest," said Jeronimo. "Cost reduction and operational efficiency have become cornerstones of corporate strategy moving forward and, for some, that will include headcount reduction. At the same time, converged mobile devices and services will become primary targets for vendors to focus their resources. Most vendors have already signaled their intentions to concentrate on the hot converged mobile devices space by aligning with operating systems that fit their strategy. Services, meanwhile, have played only a small role in the overall market, but will see increased importance as vendors compete for the user experience."

A good example of this trend is 3 UK's INQ1 phone being named as the best 2008 mobile handset or device at the Global Mobile Awards, held last week in Barcelona during the 3GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009. Competing with the likes of the Nokia E71, LG KS360, T-Mobile G1, and BlackBerry Storm, the INQ1, which is tightly integrated with Facebook, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, and last.fm, was voted the best device providing a truly mobile social networking experience to the end user. This year, we can expect new products coming to the market with a strong focus on services rather than technology alone.

Источник: Cellular news

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