Quick Look at Gartner's 2008 Q4 and FY Smartphone Numbers

Yesterday Gartner released its Q4 smartphone shipment estimates. According to the release:

Global sales of smartphones for 2008 reached 139.3 million devices, up 13.9 per cent compared with 2007.

As a proportion of all mobile device sales, smartphones remained stable at 12 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, from 11 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2007. Samsung entered the top five vendors ranking for the first time (see Table 1), replacing Sharp. RIM recorded an increase in sales both sequentially and year-over-year, while Nokia's volumes continued to fall.

Symbian's share of the global market decreased to 47.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008, down from its 2007 share of 62.3 per cent (see Table 3) ... Meanwhile, RIM successfully grew its year-on-year share of the global smartphone market to 19.5 per cent from 10.9 per cent. Gartner estimated that Android smartphones accounted for 20 per cent of total Linux sales in the fourth quarter of 2008.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, Microsoft's share of the global smartphone market improved sequentially, with unit sales up 16 per cent over 3Q08. This was mainly driven by the popularity of Samsung Omnia and touchscreen products from HTC. Sales of Linux-based smartphones were up by 19 per cent year-over-year, mainly through Android-based smartphones being available through T-Mobile during the fourth quarter of 2008.

The smarphone penetration figures are consistent with our own surveys of mobile users, showing about 12%-13% penetration of the overall market. Because smartphones are so closely tied to mobile Internet usage their adoption is a key variable across a range of fronts, including mobile advertising.

Of course the economy and pricing are other key variables. However, I expect that within five years the market will see about 20% - 25% penetration by smartphones. That would mean something approaching 70 million smartphones in the US market. 

Windows Mobile is hanging in there, because of the volume of devices in the market. Gartner attibutes its success to "the popularity of Samsung Omnia and touchscreen products from HTC." It would be interesting to look a little deeper at the motivations of the buyers of these devices. Is Windows Mobile something they're affirmatively seeking or does it happen to be the OS on the device they're interested in buying? My guess right now is that it's closer to the latter scenario for many people. But that's pure speculation. 

BlackBerry is "on a tear" as they say, without any signs of slowing. And Android seems to be gaining steam. The question surrounding Android is: when will more phones be released? Android is perhaps the most direct competitor and threat to Windows Mobile as it proliferates across carriers and handsets. 

Here are the Garnter tables:

Gartner Q4 OSGartner Q4 vendorGartner FY by OSGartner FY by vendor