There’s been a lot of talk and ruminating in the technology industry about what segments might prove to be “recession-proof” during the current economic downturn. Initial speculation centered on the video game market as consumers were seen to be “cocooning” at home rather than opting for more expensive forms of recreation and diversion. But it looks like the smart money may have been on the smartphone market: according to research firm IDC, worldwide shipments of smartphones actually grew 4.2 percent during the third quarter of 2009 to a total of 43.3 million units.
The report contradicts conventional wisdom that consumers would cut back their mobile expenses and opt for cheaper phones and service plans in order to make their money go further. Instead, many consumers seem to be prioritizing their mobile capabilities near the top of their list, and feature-rich smartphones are doing well.
“Demand for converged mobile devices has remained strong all year,” said IDC senior research analyst Ramon Llamas, in a statement. “These devices provide more utility and entertainment than traditional mobile phones. Moreover, users have plenty of devices from which to choose, whether it be a multimedia powerhouse, a messaging machine, or a social networking tool. As users expect greater functionality from their devices beyond telephony, we believe the converged mobile device market to grow faster than the overall mobile phone market.”
Despite not performing well in North America, Nokia remains the top dog in the smartphone market worldwide, accounting for 37.9 percent of all smartphones sold during the quarter. Next came Canada’s Research in Motion with a 19 percent share and Apple with a 17.1 percent share. HTC and Samsung rounded out the top five with 5.6 and 3.5 percent shares of the worldwide smartphone market in the quarter, respectively. Save for Samsung—which neither gained nor lost share—the top smartphone manufacturers all saw significant positive growth during the third quarter. However, manufacturers outside the top five players saw a substantial drop, with their smartphone sales down 23.5 percent compared to the same quarter of 2008.