Western Europe returns to handset growth
After three quarters in decline, the pressurized region sees growth, driven by Android and highly priced smartphones
Published: 28 May, 2012
After three quarters of decline, the western European handset market has returned to growth. And despite the economic crisis in the area, highly priced smartphones are leading the trend.
According to new figures from research firm IDC, total shipments in the region in the first quarter were 44.8m units, up just 1.3% year-on-year, but smartphones leapt by 37% to 28.2m units. That balance, rapidly shifting towards the higher end devices, meant that featurephone sales were down by 30% to 16.6m.
The strongest performance was seen in highly priced devices. The top tier price band - devices priced over €400 - accounted for 49% of total smartphone shipments in the region, compared with 46% in Q1 2011, with Apple's iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S II at the top of the league. Francisco Jeronimo, IDC's European mobile devices research manager, said in a statement: "Despite the fragile economic environment in most European countries, higher unemployment rates, and less disposable income, consumers showed that they are still willing to invest in smartphones when manufacturers understand their needs and offer them the right products. During the quarter the biggest contribution to the segment came from the most expensive devices."
In terms of winners and losers, the pattern was not too different from that of the mobile world as a whole. Android in general, and Samsung in particular, led the growth surge. The Korean vendor shipped 18.1m handsets during the quarter, up 34% on the year-ago period, giving it 40% market share.
Meanwhile, Android shipments were up 124% to 15.5m units, giving the Google OS 55% of the smartphone segment. Also growing sharply, though from a tiny base, was Windows Phone, up 156% year-on-year, though that still amounted to only just over 4% smartphone share. IDC said the flagship WP7 devices, the Nokia Lumia range, performed "interestingly", but still below expectations.
Nokia's other major platform, Symbian, was unsurprisingly haemorrahaging market share as it nears its end of life. Its shipments fell by 70% on the previous year, and it now retains just 5% of the smartphone space. BlackBerry saw shipments fall by 27% to 2.5m units, giving it 9% share, almost half the 17% it won in Q111.
Among the vendors, Nokia was in second place to Samsung but it shipped less than half its rival's number of handsets, at 8.7m, and that was down 31% on its year-ago figure. It now has 19% of sales in its home region, where its dominance once looked unassailable and its share peaked around 40%. Apple was in third place, shipping 7m units, up 59% on the previous year, and edging close to Nokia's market share with 16%.