Nokia's market share fell by 10 percentage points to 40.8% in Q4, largely on strength of RIM and Apple.

Worldwide smartphone sales grew 3.7% on the year to 38.1 million units in the fourth quarter 2008, research firm Gartner said Wednesday. Gartner research director Roberta Cozza said growth slowed in the fourth quarter due to fewer compelling new products and the worsened economic climate. As a proportion of all mobile device sales, smartphones remained relatively stable at 12% in the fourth quarter, compared to 11% a year earlier.

Nokia Corp. maintained its market-leading position in the quarter. However, its market share fell to 40.8% from 50.9%, and its smartphone sales declined 17% to 15.6 million units.

"Nokia's entry-level smartphone range will continue to offer good value for the money, but Nokia remains more exposed to pressure from competition in the higher end of the consumer smartphone market as the Nseries loses its appeal," Gartner said.

Research In Motion, the maker of Blackberry smartphones, increased its market share to 19.5% from 10.9%, as its sales grew 85% to 7.4 million units.

Apple's market share increased to 10.7% from 5.2%, as its sales more than doubled, to 4.1 million units from 1.9 million.

HTC's market share grew to 4.3% from 3.7%. Its sales were up 20% at 1.6 million units.

Samsung had a market share of 4.2% in the fourth quarter, up from 1.8% a year earlier, as its sales increased 138% to 1.6 million units.

"Samsung, RIM, HTC and Apple saw their volumes and share increase during 2008...thanks to their ability to offer compelling device experiences and touch interfaces," said Gartner. It said Samsung entered the top five vendors ranking for the first time, replacing Sharp Corp.

In the market for smartphone operating systems, Symbian's market share fell to 47.1% from 62.3% due to pressure from new platforms, a continued sales decline of Nokia smartphones and weakness in the Japanese mobile device market. Research In Motion replaced Microsoft Windows Mobile as second-largest on the operating system market as its market share increased to 19.5% from 10.9%.

"In 2009, mobile platforms will be a major battleground as the associated user experience...grows in importance," Gartner's Cozza said.
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