The numbers tell the story

IDC published its quarterly market share figures today and they make interesting reading. They provide numerical evidence of the trends we’ve been reporting recently, showing strong growth for both Motorola and Sony Ericsson on the back of their commitment to design and usability.

Sony Ericsson witnessed the strongest growth of all 5 major vendors, recording a 25.5 percent sequential increase in unit shipments and taking it within a few hundred thousand units of reclaiming 4th place from LG. Motorola shipped 18.1% more handsets than in the last quarter. In contrast, Nokia (13%) and LG (9%) struggled to match the pace of these gains, while Samsung actually shipped fewer handsets than in the last quarter, declining by 0.4%.

This is representative of a broad trend over the last six months which has seen Motorola, Sony Ericsson and, to a certain extent – Nokia, win back the hearts and minds of consumers with highly differentiated, stylish product designs and savvy marketing. It appears the glut of identikit silver clamshells from Far Eastern vendors which swamped the market in 2003/2004 has triggered a negative response from consumers, who now want products with more individuality and that better reflect their design sense.

I expect these issues to be hotly debated at the MEX conference, where we’ll be joined by user experience experts from manufacturers such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Siemens.

IDC also pointed out that new customer growth – i.e. first time mobile subscribers – was being driven almost exclusively by developing countries. It highlighted the growing sales of low-cost handsets in these regions, particularly as mobile adoption expands outside the cities and into rural areas, as a key trend.

This is something PMN have been reporting on for some time, including our analysis of ultra low-cost devices earlier this year. This segment presents several challenges for the mobile industry:

– Does manufacturing for ultra low-cost require a new approach or can existing handset development strategies be re-used?

– How brand sensitive are consumers in this segment? (Nokia recently put out some research suggesting consumers in India were very sensitive to handset brand when subscribing to a mobile service. Just because a device may seem low-cost in Western markets, it still represents a significant investment for those making a purchase in developing countries.)

– What other elements of the user experience need to be re-designed for these markets, e.g. packaging, distribution, retail etc..?

Manufacturers seeking to benefit from this growth will need to continue to invest in the development of highly segmented, cutting edge handsets at the top end, while understanding local requirements for low cost models in developing countries.

We’re delighted that Ben Soppitt, the GSM Association’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, will be joining us to chair a panel on these issues – ‘Access for all: the inclusive mobile experience‘ at MEX in September. The GSM Association has taken a leadership role in liaising between manufacturers and operators to encourage the development of ultra low-cost handsets.

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