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Mobile Device Sales Better Than Expected

Mobile phone operators and distributors continued to top up their inventories in 1Q 2008 after a particularly strong 4Q 2007, according to ABI Research vice president Jake Saunders. "Year on year, 1Q 2008 was up 13.7 percent, but 2Q 2008 is likely to be softer than in previous years."

Shipment volumes in the developed markets have softened slightly due to the credit crisis, but emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific, South America, and the Middle East/Africa are delivering growth rate percentages in the mid-20s. Mobile devices have proved to be a lifestyle necessity, rather than a mere luxury accessory.

Despite all the global concern about price inflation in food, rent, clothing, oil, and utility bills, device manufacturers are not benefiting. The ASP (Average Selling Price) has shown comprehensive price erosion for all manufacturers.

In the market-share stakes, Nokia increased its share to 39.9 percent while Samsung and LG were also net winners with 16 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively.

Motorola continued to lose market share (falling 2.6 percent) to 9.5 percent, while it was more of a surprise that Sony Ericsson lost market share (down to 7.7 percent). It may be the case that that Sonys Walkman and CyberShot lineups are in need of a substantial refresh.

Additionally, WCDMA continues to build momentum with shipment volumes that are up 44 percent percent YoY -- but no one should count out GSM, as GSM-enabled handsets grew 17 percent in the quarter.

The market is still very much dominated by the Big Five manufacturers, but an innovative tier of manufacturers (RIM, HTC, Apple) has been stirring up interest in smartphones and will soon be joined by a new class of mobile device: MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices).

MIDs made their debut last year, but vendors such as Lenovo, Aigo, and Asus are expected to drive growth rapidly.

"Mobile device shipment volumes show no sign of abating in growth, despite the uncertain economy," says research director Kevin Burden. "ABI Research expects 2008 to top out at 1.28 billion devices shipped -- a 12 percent increase YoY -- but these volumes could be subject to the overall global economic climate."

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