There's a transition taking place across the whole mobile phone subscriber market in Europe. This change includes both an upside and a downside for service providers and device manufacturers. Western European feature phone shipments continued to decline sharply in 2Q11, as consumers increasingly move to smartphones -- according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).
Feature phone shipments were down 29 percent -- to 20.4 million units in 2Q11 -- while smartphone shipments were up 4 percent -- to 21.8 million units from a year ago. The total Western European mobile phone market, however, declined 3 percent year on year to 42.2 million units in the quarter.
This is the first time that smartphone shipments have surpassed feature phone shipments in Western Europe, representing 52 percent of total mobile phone shipments.
All European countries are seeing increasing smartphone adoption, as consumers go for Android-based devices and the iPhone from Apple.
On the other hand, mobile operators stopped subsidizing feature phones in Europe some time ago now, which has made the devices less attractive to users.
Feature phones are becoming a niche segment driven by the very-low-end devices targeted at users who only need a device for voice and texts.
"This quarter was particularly important from the device type perspective," said Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager at IDC.
Smartphones now dominate the Western European phone market and those vendors with stronger portfolios in the segment are consolidating their positions, compared with those manufacturers with less attractive smart devices.
Google Android-powered handsets from Samsung, HTC, and Sony Ericsson have been able to drive strong volumes -- and to take the biggest slice of market share from the declining Symbian OS, as Nokia moves to Microsoft Windows OS phones.
Jeronimo added, "The overall market had slipped into the red due to a number of factors: First, the economic environment in the eurozone is deteriorating, with a direct impact on consumer demand. Secondly, the smartphone segment was strongly impacted by the sharp decline of Nokia, which was not totally offset by the remaining players, which may indicate that Symbian fans are holding off on their phone replacements until Nokia launches its Windows Phones. Lastly, operators focused on clearing inventories for the introduction of the new devices expected in the third quarter, such as the iPhone5 from Apple and Windows Phones from HTC and other players."
The Google Android OS strengthened its leadership in the region, with shipments up an impressive 352 percent year on year to 10.5 million units, which represented 48.5 percent of total smartphone shipments. Samsung was the most representative Android manufacturer, supported by the success of the Galaxy devices family.