Handset shipments down 11% in first quarter: report

But this figure wasn't as steep as some companies had projected

Although an 11 percent drop in handset shipments can't be considered good news, device manufacturers can at least take solace that things weren't worse, according to a new report from ABI Research.

The report shows that handset vendors shipped a total of 258 million units in the first quarter, down 11 percent from the 289 million handsets that ABI estimates vendors shipped in the first quarter last year. This decline, however, beat previous forecasts projecting that vendors would only ship 253.5 million handsets in the quarter.

Because the decline in handset shipments wasn't as steep as they had projected, ABI said that it now expects handset shipments for 2009 to decline by 8 percent, marginally better than the 8.4 percent decline the firm had projected in earlier estimates.

ABI analyst Kevin Burden says that Samsung and LG showed "healthy gains" and that Research in Motion (RIM) increased its market share due to the success of its BlackBerry Bold. On the downside, he notes that Nokia and Sony Ericsson saw their market shares shrink, although he expects Nokia to get a boost when its N97 smartphone gets released later this year.

ABI has also predicted that smartphones will buck the industry-wide decline, as shipments for the devices are projected to reach 203 million this year, an increase of around 19 percent from the 171 million smartphones that shipped last year. Additionally, ABI also projects that smartphones will account for roughly 17 percent of all mobile devices shipped in 2009, up from 14 percent of all mobile devices shipped in 2008.

ABI's current projection of an 8 percent drop in handset sales for 2009 gels with projections made by research firm IDC, which also estimated that the mobile handset market would shrink by 8 percent back in March. IDC also predicts that the handset market will rebound sharply in 2010, as a 22 percent increase in smartphone shipments is projected to jumpstart the handset market to 9.5 percent overall market growth.

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