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Handheld sales healthy

Handheld sales are booming in EMEA, with both PDAs and smartphones having a record quarter, according to research firm Canalys.

Handheld sales are booming in EMEA, with both PDAs and smartphones having a record quarter, according to research firm Canalys.

While IDC last month estimated that worldwide PDA sales declined last year, Canalys said sales of PDAs in the region exceeded one million units for Q4 2003, the first time they have ever done so. Smartphone sales also soared in the quarter, with over two million being shipped, up from just over 800,000 in the same period the year before.

All told, the total handheld market for both voice and data-centric devices was estimated by Canalys at just under three and a half million units in Q4 2003, more than double the 1.6 million units shipped in Q4 2002.

While the PDA market has been seen as pretty much saturated, Canalys said that GPS navigation bundles have given it a boost. “Handhelds have found a new lease of life, with the arrival of competitively priced GPS navigation bundles,” said Canalys senior analyst and director Chris Jones. “In some countries, Germany being a prime example, major retailers are now insisting on navigation solutions in preference to standalone handhelds, and the leading vendors are taking advantage of this. Vendors without navigation bundles will find it harder to get shelf space – Palm and Sony have some catching up to do in this area.”

In the Middle East, most PDAs that Windows Middle East has tested have featured GPS navigation bundles as an optional expansion card feature offered by third parties.

This may change in the future, as Jones said that PDAs manufacturers will find it hard to compete in the market place without additional features. “Low end handhelds are competing with smartphones offering a similar level of functionality; high end models must offer other benefits to justify their higher price points,” he said.

PDAs with their larger screen sizes are more naturally suited to such a navigation feature, Jones pointed out, although audio capabilities could offset this in the future.

The smartphone market itself is booming, with vendors such as Nokia continuing to add to their range.

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