FEBRUARY 9, 2011 THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
By GUSTAV SANDSTROM
STOCKHOLM—Global handset sales surged last year, led by smartphones based on Google Inc.'s Android platform, research firm Gartner said Wednesday.
World-wide handset sales to end users rose 32% in 2010 to 1.6 billion units, Gartner said. Smartphone sales rose 72% from a year earlier to 297 million units as sales of Android-based devices increased almost tenfold to 67 million.
The figures come after research firm Canalys last week said Android had toppled Nokia Corp.'s Symbian as the world's most widespread smartphone platform in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Still, according to Gartner's estimates, Symbian remained slightly ahead of Android in the fourth quarter as the combined Symbian sales of Nokia and smaller handset vendors like Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. and Sharp Corp. kept unit volumes ahead.
Android's rapid growth puts pressure on Nokia, whose Symbian platform has long been the market leader, and it underscores the challenge the Finnish company faces as it tries to regain its market dominance.
Indeed, at a coming strategy update Friday in London, Nokia's Chief Executive Stephen Elop is widely expected to shake up the company's software strategy, perhaps adopting Android or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Phone 7 for at least some its devices.
Even though Windows Phone 7 has a tiny market share compared with Android, it may still be a better choice for Nokia because the company would risk losing its identity and "commoditizing" its business if it joined Android, Gartner's research vice president Carolina Milanesi said.
In the fourth quarter 2010, shipments of premium handsets such as HTC Corp's Desire, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.'s Galaxy S and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.'s Droid X continued to drive Android sales, Gartner said.
Symbian's market share continued to decline in the fourth quarter, to 32.6% compared with 37.6% for the full year 2010, the research firm said.
Meanwhile, the wider availability of the iPhone 4 helped Apple Inc. achieve a 16% share of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter, Gartner said.
Shortages of components such as camera modules and touch screen controllers hit the industry in the fourth quarter, and are likely to persist into the second half of the current year. "Shortages will be a long-term consideration for mobile device vendors, because other fast-growing categories of connected consumer devices, such as media tablets, are competing for the same components," Gartner said.
Sales of unbranded, or "white-box" handsets exceeded 360 million in 2010, Gartner said.
Overall mobile-phone shipments got a boost last year as large numbers of consumers in emerging markets shifted from second-hand or black-market handsets to legitimate white-box devices, Ms. Milanesi said.