510 mln phones sold in 2003, 560 will be sold in 2004

Global sales of mobile phones exceeded even the most bullish expectations in 2003 and market researchers said on Tuesday the handset industry will enjoy an even better 2004 as new, fancy models catch on. Mobile phone sales to consumers topped 510 mil units in 2003 and will exceed 560 mil units in 2004, according to the big three research groups that track the world’s biggest consumer electronics segment of mobile handsets: Gartner Dataquest, IDC and Strategy Analytics.

Most handset makers said the total market was around 460 mil units in 2003, while market researchers themselves had expected 500 mil, up from around 420 mil in 2002. It is the first year since 2000 that handset demand rose more than 10% as the sector strove to cater to both emerging markets and choosier customers in rich economies.

Strategy Analytics was the most bullish in its 2004 forecast, estimating shipments of 585 mil units this year, but analysts said that most gains from record shipments are wiped out by fierce price pressure. The world’s top six vendors still take about 80% of the global market, but aggressive Asian rivals, many of which are based in China, put pressure on prices and are gaining market share, Strategy Analytics found. The losers were market leader Nokia from Finland, whose 2003 market share slipped 0.3% to 34.8%, and U.S.-based number two Motorola, whose share dropped to 14.5% from 16.3%, Strategy Analytics said.

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