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Cellphone Sales Declined In Q4

Cellphone unit and dollar sales to consumers fell at single-digit percentage rates in the fourth quarter, sharply contrasting with 2007’s fourth quarter, when dollar sales surged 20 percent despite a 10 percent drop in unit sales, NPD statistics show.

The rising share of ASP-boosting smartphones and touch-screen phones triggered the Q4 2007 jump in dollar volume despite declining unit sales, but the industry couldn’t count on rising smartphone and touch-screen share to boost ASPs and industry volume in Q4 2008, when ASPs barely nudged up, NPD found.

Smartphone ASPs fell in 2008’s fourth quarter, NPD analyst Ross Rubin said, because carriers boosted smartphone subsides to drive up data revenues and to adjust for the de facto $199 ceiling on smartphone prices established by the subsidized iPhone. Growth in selection in recent years has also led to a growing number of legacy smartphones being discounted, he added.

The survey found that smartphone unit sales grew in absolute numbers during the fourth quarter despite cellphone sales declines caused by the recession and by high penetration rates. Touch-screen-equipped phones, whether smartphones or not, also gained unit share during the quarter, accounting for 20 percent of unit purchases compared to the year-ago 7 percent. Touchscreen unit sales also grew.

Full-year sales: Unit sell-through to consumers fell about 14 percent to around 125 million units, but dollar volume fell only about 5 percent to $10.9 billion. In 2007, in contrast, unit sales rose 2 percent to 146 million, and dollar volume soared 27 percent to $11.5 billion, in large part because more people began using cellphones as their main phones and were willing to invest more by stepping up to richer featured phones, The NPD Group said at the time.

Fourth-quarter sales: Unit sales fell in the fourth-quarter by about 5.5 percent from the year-ago quarter to around 34 million units, with dollar sales falling about 3 percent to $2.9 billion as ASPs rose by $2 to $85.

U.S. Cellphone Sell-Through To Consumers By Feature