Global Smartphone Sales Rose 72% in 2010

Smartphone sales gained 72% last year, helping propel the worldwide mobile-phone market to 1.6 billion units, researcher Gartner Inc. said.

Research in Motion Ltd. and Apple Inc. became the fourth- and fifth-biggest mobile-phone companies, displacing Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB and the business now known as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner said today in an e-mailed report.

Handsets with Google Inc.’s Android software overtook Nokia’s sales of Symbian smartphones in the fourth quarter, Gartner said. Symbian remained the best-selling smartphone system overall as other manufacturers also have it on their devices, the researcher said. Nokia, which remained the biggest mobile-phone vendor, saw its market share drop to 28.9% from 36.4% in 2009. Gartner reports sales to end users.

“The decline is not solely attributable to Nokia’s continuing deficiency in high-end devices but is in part the result of the growth of legitimate white-box sales,” Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst in Egham, U.K, said in the report.

So-called white box manufacturers, based mainly in China, produce small runs of mobile phones from standard components without the benefit of a major brand. White-box phones have expanded from the black market and informal channels to regular phone retailers, where they now sell in significant numbers and are tracked by researchers. Sales by such vendors reached 360 million units last year, Gartner said.

About half of all phones sold in Western Europe and North America in the fourth quarter were smartphones, Gartner said. Android sales increased more than nine-fold during the year.

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