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RIM and Apple Power Smartphone Sales

cellphone sales

The International Data Corporation has outed its newest analysis of the global cell phone market, and it shows the gadgets are selling well. In fact, smartphones in particular may help shoo the lingering post-recession clouds in the industry.

The headline data from IDC is that the global cell phone market grew 21.7% in the first quarter of 2010, reversing the market shrink that happened this time last year. It's a sign the economy is rebounding, as cell phones are something of a luxury good, and such a sharp turnaround is a very good sign indeed. Underneath that overall growth, IDC notes that converged devices (by which it means smartphones) were the real powerhouse driving sales, and this was true even in the U.S., which actually saw a slight year-on-year decline in cell phone sales.

IDC data

And there's a notable success for one of the big names in smartphone making: RIM. For the first time RIM moved into the top 5 list for global cell phone sales of any type, ousting Motorola (which has been on a continual decline since 2004 as the smartphone revolution began to pass it by). It's also the only maker in the top five list that exclusively sells smartphones, which is a clear indicator that this is the trend the entire industry will soon be following.

Elsewhere, Strategy Analytics has been peeking exclusively at smartphone sales, and has uncovered something that'll make Steve Jobs' day: Apple increased its share of global smartphone sales to 16.4%, meaning it's rapidly catching up to RIM, at 19.7% this year (and actually slightly declining since last year).

What does all this data mean when taken together? Smartphones are the future, and dumbphones are on the way out. (Did you hear that Nokia? That's why your share of the overall world cell phone market has slipped from 38.4% this time last year to 36.6% this year.) We'd kinda guessed that before, but to see it in hard numbers is a different thing. It also bodes extremely well for Apple, whose new metal-chassis iPhone is due in a couple of months and which (if the Net fuss about its leak is anything to go by) will sell like hotcakes.

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