Nokia’s smartphone lead starts to slip

Nokia's dominance in the smartphone market is starting to slip as Apple and Research in Motion (RIM) make triple-digit gains, according to a new report.

Gartner said that while Nokia still has a solid grip on the top position, its sales are slipping while its rivals make gains.

Nokia's smartphone sales fell 16.8 per cent in the last quarter of 2008, and were flat for the year, while second place RIM grew 84.6 per cent in the quarter and 96.7 per cent over the year, boosted by the release of the new BlackBerry Bold and Storm.

Third-ranked Apple's gains were even more dramatic. The iPhone maker had fourth quarter sales growth of 111.6 per cent, and posted yearly growth of 245.7 per cent.

Even HTC and Samsung posted gains in the quarter, of 19.9 per cent and 138.0 per cent respectively.

Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, said in a statement: "In general in 2008, the focus from vendors and operators on increasing their smartphone portfolios remained very strong. Samsung, RIM, HTC and Apple saw their volumes and share increase during 2008, thanks to their ability to offer compelling device experiences and touch interfaces."

That said, Nokia still held market share of 43.7 per cent for 2008. While that's down from 49.4 per cent the year before, it's still a much bigger slice of the pie than RIM at 16.6 per cent or Apple at 8.2 per cent.

Nokia's Symbian operating system is still the leader, despite falling from 62.3 per cent of the market in 2007 to 47.1 per cent for the quarter. RIM holds 19.5 per cent of OS share, followed by Microsoft's Windows Mobile at 12.4 per cent and Mac's OS X at 10.7 per cent.

Linux held 8.4 per cent market share. Gartner said about a fifth of that was likely made up of Google's Android system.

Cozza predicted: "In 2009, mobile platforms will be a major battleground as the associated user experience and role of the ecosystem grow in importance."

Overall, the smartphone market is growing, albeit at its slowest rate. In the fourth quarter, sales climbed 3.7 per cent on year, while annual sales hit 139.3 million up 13.9 per cent from 2007.

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