Framingham, Mass. - Worldwide cellphone unit shipments grew by
17.9 percent in the fourth quarter to a new quarterly high of 401.4 million and
by 18.5 percent for the full year to 1.39 billion units, IDC found.
Annual sales grew at the highest percentage rate since 2006, when
growth peaked at 22.6 percent, IDC said. Growth followed a 2009 full-year
decline of 1.6 percent.
IDC attributed the gains to a growing selection of increasingly
affordable smartphones. "Mobile phone users are eager to swap out older
devices for ones that handle data as well as voice, which is driving growth and
replacement cycles," explained senior research analyst Kevin Restivo. "Feature-phone
users looking to do more with their devices will flock to smartphones in the
years to come," he said. The trend will help drive smartphone unit growth
in 2011 to 43.7 percent, he said.
The global phone market "will be driven largely by smartphone
growth through the end of 2014," the company added.
In ranking the top-five
global vendors, IDC found that Apple slipped to fifth place as Chinese vendor
ZTE broke into the top five for the first time, placing fourth. ZTE primarily
sells entry-level and midtier feature phones in emerging markets but has made
inroads in Western Europe, the U.S. and Japan, IDC said. Some of ZTE's recent
success "is directly attributable to its rapidly expanding smartphone line,"
More changes in the top five could occur this year, said Ramon
Llamas, IDC senior research analyst. Motorola, Research In Motion and Sony
Ericsson, all with a "tight focus" on the fast-growing smartphone market, "are
well within striking distance to move back into the top-five list," he
In ranking the vendors, IDC also found that Nokia's unit volume
slipped 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter but that its smartphone volume grew
38 percent compared with the year-ago period.
The statistics also show that Samsung breached the 80 million
mark for the first time in the fourth quarter and improved its profit margins
for the second straight quarter. Volume was driven by its Galaxy S smartphones,
of which almost 10 million were sold in 2010, IDC said. Samsung's mass-market
and touchscreen phones earned a strong following in emerging markets, IDC
As for Apple, the company made it to the top five for the second
consecutive quarter, though its rank fell to fifth from fourth. Apple slipped
despite a record quarter for unit shipments. The iPhone sold "particularly
well" in developed regions such as North America and Western Europe, IDC noted.
Volume will likely rise because Apple has said it could have sold more iPhones
in the fourth quarter if it were able to make more. In addition, the iPhone
will be available through Verizon Wireless for the first time in the U.S., IDC