According to a report referenced on Ars Technica, the United States mobile phone buying population is increasingly looking at smartphones to replace their less expensive basic cell phones.Â The clear winners in this transition to more fully featured mobile handsets are the handset makers including Research in Motion, Apple, Motorola, and Nokia who all fared well according to sales numbers.
Looking At The Figures
Strategy Analytics, the source of the study, reported that RIM shipped almost 42 million units in 2008 – a 6% increase over the same quarter in 2007.Â Motorola was the highest selling US smartphone maker, accounting for 26% of all smartphone shipments in the country.Â Nokia, who is globally dominant with a worldwide market share around 46%, didn’t fare as well in the US, accounting for only 9% of the US smartphone market.
A Few Cautionary Bits
Motorola’s current rise to the top of the US smartphone stack isn’t likely to last long.Â As Ars points out, Moto’s current strong sellers, the Motorola Q and Q9, haven’t been updated in quite some time.Â The mobile market is one that shifts on a dime.Â For example, look at the Motorola RAZR: 2-3 years ago it was a hot seller, but they failed to update the device and now it is a complete dinosaur.Â To further support this line of thought: the Treo hasn’t had any major updates or feature add-ons and is now experiencing falling sales numbers.
Good Times Will Continue
I predict that the US smartphone market will continue to grow, despite the slumping US economy.Â Smartphones continue to come down in price as carriers catch on to the idea that they can lower the up-front cost of the hardware and make the money back with higher data plan rates (like AT&T did with the iPhone 3G).Â Additionally, as US consumers continue to dump their landlines for mobile calling plans, they’ll feel better about buying a slightly more costly phone and can justify a higher per-month data charge considering they’re cutting out the monthly landline expense at the same time.
This much is clear: Research In Motion is positioned very well.Â After once only being a white-collar business phone, the Canadian mobile handset maker wisely looked to the consumer market and released the Pearl, instantly branching out to the connected consumer market.Â With the BlackBerry Bold about to hit the market, RIM has no where to look but up and will add to the inroads they’ve made with the Pearl.
Looking at another handset maker, Nokia has fantastic upward potential.Â The Finnish mobile company has a staggering worldwide handset market share and has a lot of promising growth inside North America.Â North Americans have long felt forgotten by Nokia because of an absence of North American-specific phone models.Â But recently, Nokia has focused on bringing handsets to market that use AT&T 3G network for fast mobile web activity.Â The N95 has a NAM edition, along with the newly released E71 and E66 models.Â Look for the upcoming N96 to also have a North American 3G model as well.
As a mobile writer, you can’t write a US mobile post and not mention the Apple iPhone.Â The newest version, the iPhone 3G has sold 3 million units in the first month, despite AT&T’s lousy 3G network coverage.Â It is huge news for Apple though that the iPhone 3G is selling much faster than the original iPhone.
As more mobile developers engage consumers with fantastic mobile applications and services, the entire mobile industry will become increasingly relevant.Â Consumers are just now becoming aware of what a smartphone can do in their day-to-day lives.