The worldwide mobile phone market reached a new milestone at the close of 2006 with more than one billion units shipped worldwide over the year, new research has reported.
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker said that vendors shipped a total of 1.019 billion units in 2006, or 22.5 percent more than the 832.8 million in 2005.
Vendors shipped 294.9 million units in the quarter ending 31 December 2006, 19.7 percent more than the 246.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2005. This also marked a record shipment volume for a single quarter.
"Emerging markets contributed to the high volume sales," said Ramon Llamas, a research analyst in IDC's Mobile Technology and Tracking team.
"It was not long ago that shipments into mature markets, including Japan, North America and Western Europe, consumed the majority of devices shipped worldwide.
"More recently, however, device shipments into emerging economies in Asia/Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America have surpassed shipments to mature markets, and the difference between the two continues to grow."
IDC expects this trend to continue as mature markets reach saturation, and as emerging markets with much lower "teledensity" provide opportunities for handset vendors to attract first-time users.
"In addition, the time to set up a mobile network is much shorter and less expensive than the time to set up a landline network, propelling cellphone shipments further," said Llamas.
"Finally, mobile phones are seen as both a practical necessity and a status symbol in many emerging markets.
"Together, these economic, technological and social conditions will continue to drive strong demand for mobile handsets in emerging markets for some time to come."
The research also noted that location-based services have "come to life" across many regions, with Nokia's acquisition of Gate5, a supplier of mapping and navigation services, reinforcing this trend.
Meanwhile, the so-called 'prosumer' space also received a boost with the launch of the BlackBerry Pearl from Research In Motion.
"We believe that the Pearl was a trend-setting device because it was the first professional consumer release from a company that has always been associated with strictly business-focused users," said Ryan Reith, a research analyst in IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracking Group.
"It is no secret that the vast majority of people in society use email, regardless of their profession, and a device like this has made mobile email more of a reality.
"Elsewhere, mobile TV, which has been talked about for many years, is finally coming to the forefront in select markets."
Reith predicted that mobile advertising will play a key role in the adoption of mobile TV by consumers.
From a vendor perspective, Nokia ended 2006 in the same way that it began the year as the undisputed worldwide leader in mobile phone shipments.
Having reached a new shipment record of more than a million units on average each day during the quarter, the Finnish giant experienced downward pressure on its profits from the same quarter a year ago.
Despite reaching a record level of shipments during the fourth quarter, Motorola missed its fourth-quarter profit target
The company acknowledged "challenges" within its product portfolio mix and its late introduction of 3G devices.
Samsung edged above the 30 million unit mark twice in 2006, exceeding its sales target for the year. Sony Ericsson took the fourth spot, beating LG Electronics into fifth.
One billion mobile phones shipped in 2006
By Robert Jaques on Jan 29, 2007 9:54AM