Will Record Smartphone Sales Lead to a Pricing War?

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Smartphone sales were up 30% worldwide in the fourth quarter to 53 million units, the highest ever, according to data from research firm Strategy Analytics. The rankings didn't change—Nokia, Research in Motion, and non-mobile Apple still sit atop the smartpile. Nokia increased its share to 39.2% of smartphones in the quarter, still holding a strong lead over RIM at 20.2% and Apple, which grew more than five percentage points to 16.4% in the fourth quarter alone.

Remember when Steve Jobs claimed Apple was the "largest mobile devices company in the world" at the iPad launch last week? These numbers seem to suggest otherwise—and so does Nokia's Mark Squires, who posted a blog on Nokia's Web site beating down Job's claims. Squires said Jobs redefined what the business world considers "mobile," but even with the new definition, Nokia's devices and services revenue from October to December was 8.18 billion euros compared to Apple's mobile devices business at 7.25 billion euros.

Nokia's unit sales rose to 20.8 million, up a huge 38% year-over-year. Compare that to the 10.7 shipped by RIM and the 8.7 shipped by Apple, as well as the 12.8 million smartphones all the companies outside the top three (like LG, Samsung, HTC, and so on) sold combined and Nokia's hold is strong.

These are big numbers, especially considering that this is only smartphones, not standard dumbphone units. The analysts at Strategy Analytics foresee 2010 as a smartphone pricing warzone, with more and more players moving into the space (Huawei, Dell) and companies who haven't had so much of a focus on smartphones adjusting their production (LG, Samsung), causing strain on the market and forcing price drops. And it's already happening: HTC announced today that its smartphone prices are falling—in the Singapore market, the HTC Magic dropped from S$1,048 to S$648, down S$400. (Prices in the U.S. aren't available yet.)

[Via Bloomberg]

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