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Worldwide Handheld Device Market Decline

Following a holiday quarter in which worldwide shipments of handheld devices topped two million units, the worldwide market for handheld devices began 2006 with its ninth consecutive quarter of year-over-year decline.

According to IDC's Worldwide Handheld QView, worldwide shipments of handheld devices totaled 1.5 million units, down 22.3 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Despite the incorporation of features like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, expandable memory, and integrated GPS solutions, the handheld market continues to shrink.

Many of these same features can be found on mobile phones, and the inclusion of telephony extends the usability of mobile phones beyond that of handheld devices. Still, vendors continue to search for ways to keep their products viable within this space by appealing to first-time and core users, or even joining the converged mobile device (i.e. smartphone) space altogether.

"A decline in shipments following the holiday quarter is expected of mature markets, and the handheld devices market is no different. After nine consecutive quarters of year-over-year decline, many are wondering how long this trend will continue, and whether the market will see a reverse," says Ramon Llamas, research analyst with IDC's Mobile Markets team. "IDC believes that the market will eventually hit a size where the rate of year-over-year decline will slow to a sustainable level. That size has yet to be determined, but will be sustained by the core users of handheld devices as well as the enhancements found on these devices."

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