IDC: Q3 2009 Smartphone Market Grew, iPhone Up, Android Reaching Critical Mass

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The smartphone market grew in the September quarter, despite the world-wide recession, with global unit shipments up 4.2% year-over-year to 43.3 million, according to research firm IDC. The company said that Apple saw its highest iPhone unit sales yet, though Research In Motion's BlackBerry also gained share in the global market. The research firm also said that Google's Android platform was reaching "critical mass" with the release of several new Android models and the release of Android OS 2.0.

"Apple reached its highest volume yet in a single quarter," the firm said in a statement. "The nearly global availability of the iPhone 3GS sparked another round of annual replacements for Apple loyalists, while the lower price on the iPhone 3G put the device well within reach of customers wary of the price. Although the iPhone has struggled within emerging markets, its arrival at China Unicom this year could foreshadow greater shipment volumes."

The iPhone is off to a slow start in China, however, with China Unicom announcing only 5,000 activations in the smartphone's opening weekend of sales. That was lower than pundits and analysts had expected.

Also, while BlackBerry may have picked up share during the September quarter, RIM announced disappointing results for its fiscal third quarter, which ended in August, along with warnings of pricing pressure on the company's products during the current quarter. That has resulted in a share selloff of about one third of the company's market value, and RIM announced Thursday a share repurchase program.

In the meanwhile, there has been much attention centered on Android, especially with the recent release of Motorola's Droid product.

Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team, said "The release of new Android devices has picked up dramatically over the past several months and the release of version 2.0 demonstrates that Android is rapidly evolving and responsive to suggestions from OEMs and developers. With an expanding portfolio of handsets and a just released update of the code, Android is poised to mount a serious challenge to the incumbent smartphone OEMs for the first time in its brief history."


Top Five Converged Mobile Device Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Q3 2009 (Units in Millions)


3Q09 Shipment Volume 

3Q09 Market Share 

3Q08 Shipment Volume

3Q08 Market Share

Year-over-Year Growth







Research In Motion




































Table courtesy of IDC


Bryan Chaffin

The smartphone market is an increasingly interesting one as the competition heats up.  For instance, I think Microsoft is increasingly being perceived an also-ran int his category, which has got to be a blow to Redmond.

I also think Android is going to end up being bigger than BlackBerry in the global market, likely ahead of Apple’s iPhone, just as BlackBerry is now.

I may have a column on this coming up.


I think Android will be replacing Windows Mobile’s position relative to the iPhone, i.e. it too will be an also-ran.


Obviously android phones will be huge because they are like the pc clones i.e. any phone manufacturer can make use of the technology to make a phone.

The next point is how will the android phones stay relevant. The last generation iPhone’s OS can be updated but can the previous generation of android phones be updated with the latest OS.

Ease of use will dictate the popularity of the phones not features.


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Justa Notherguy

The next point is how will the android phones stay relevant. The last generation iPhone?s OS can be updated but can the previous generation of android phones be updated with the latest OS.

I think that’s a non-issue.

Lately, smart phone users - traditionally, the ‘techie’ vanguard of phone users, overall - are growing accustomed to the notion of one-year obsolescence. And, increasingly, US cell providers are encouraging this behavior by offering easier trade-in terms, especially at the 12-month mark. For example, existing subscribers can get the Droid for ~$150, with a new contract.

Eventually, to stay competitive and cut churn, Apple will be forced to offer similar deals - something which will seriously erode their enviable margins. And, speaking of Apple, iPhone iterations vary greatly in performance. 1G phones have significantly worse network reception; only the 3GS has a compass and it is also the only model which meets the security requirements of MS Exchange service.

Ease of use will dictate the popularity of the phones not features.

I’ll agree in one, narrow - but important - respect: lots of folks have iPods. That means they are familiar with cable hookup and the iTunes sync-interface (plus non-removable battery, exchange-based service plan, etc.), all of which are shared by the iPhone. That’s ease-of-use, for sure.

But price is always a bigger factor than convenience. And that’s where Android succeeds against iPhone, by bringing together dozens of handset makers, carriers and vendors (plus who knows how many associated developers) into a unified force with one goal: make money from Android. No way can the Apple/AT&T effort muster enough cash, talent or clout to go up against that army, especially once they drive down prices…which has already begun.

In a couple years, if nothing changes, Apple will find themselves a niche player touting the dubious benefits of their ‘premium product’...while losing share, the whole time. Shades of 1990. smile


The iPhone will continue its market share gains because of its application advantage.  I have over 50 apps on my phone some I use everyday like NeuroMobile and some news readers.  The number of apps is steadily increasing.  Other smart phone makers will need to figure out how to combat this advantage in order to successfully compete with the iPhone,

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