The global mobile phone market grew 17.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, a new quarterly high driven by smartphones, according to a new report from IDC.
Vendors shipped 401.4 million units in Q4 compared to 340.5 million units in Q4 of 2009. Vendors shipped a total of 1.39 billion units on a cumulative worldwide basis in 2010, up 18.5% from the 1.17 billion units shipped in 2009.
The strong quarterly and annual growth comes after a weak 2009, which saw the market decline by 1.6%. A stronger economy and a wider array of increasingly affordable smartphones helped lift the market to its highest annual growth rate since 2006 when it grew 22.6%.
"The mobile phone market has the wind behind its sails," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker.
"Mobile phone users are eager to swap out older devices for ones that handle data as well as voice, which is driving growth and replacement cycles."
It's not just smartphone-focused suppliers that capitalized on the mobile phone market's renewed growth last year. ZTE, a company that sells primarily lower-cost feature phones in emerging markets, moved into the number 4 position worldwide in 4Q10. It is the first quarter the Chinese handset maker finished among IDC's Top 5 vendors.
"Change-up among the number four and five vendors could be a regular occurrence this year," added Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Devices Technology and Trends team.
"Motorola, Research In Motion, and Sony Ericsson, all vendors with a tight focus on the fast-growing smartphone market who had ranked among the top five worldwide vendors during 2010 are well within striking distance to move back into the top five list."