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Nokia smartens its act

World’s number one handset vendor dominates booming smart device market.

Shipments of smart mobile devices soared in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe (EMEA) region during the first quarter of 2006 according to research house Canalys.

Shipments almost doubled year-on-year in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as the total number of units sold across EMEA surpassed 6.5m.

While overall EMEA unit shipments climbed 25% year-on-year, the result stood in stark contrast to certain markets such as Western Europe, where unit shipments actually fell 10% year-on-year during the first quarter of 2006.

A quick calculation based on the Canalys statistics highlights just how significant sales outside Western Europe are becoming in the EMEA theatre.

During Q1 2006, shipments in Middle East and Africa accounted for 49% of total units sold — some 3.18m units — while 3.36m units were sold in Western Europe.

In the first quarter of 2005, Western Europe accounted for 71% of all units shipped with the rest of the region accounting for 1.5m units — just 29% of the overall EMEA total of 5.23m units.

Despite delays in the release of its enterprise-focused E-series smart phones, Nokia managed to increase its comfortable lead in EMEA, snaffling a massive 76% of the market in terms of units sold — up from 67% a year earlier.

Both Nokia and second-placed RIM outstripped the overall market growth rate with shipments climbing 41.4% and 61.5% respectively. Qtek — the brand used by HTC on its own devices in EMEA — posted the highest growth rate among the top five vendors, tripling its unit shipments year-on-year, moving above both HP and Palm and becoming the leading Windows Mobile device vendor in the process.

According to Canalys, HP and Palm, along with several other vendors are feeling the effects of the decline in consumer demand for handheld devices.

Canalys also claimed that converged device volume sales are not yet great enough to offset the drop off experienced in the handheld device market.

“The booming market for handheld-based GPS navigation solutions in Western Europe provided a tremendous boost to vendors over the past couple of years, but this has moved rapidly to demand for dedicated ‘transferable’ devices and the vendors that don’t play in this area are missing out,” said Chris Jones, Canalys principal analyst and director.

“But we are still at an early stage in what will become a huge and sustainable industry. More changes and new opportunities for device vendors and service providers across various categories will emerge over the coming quarters.”

According to Canalys, the 15% decline in the handheld segment in EMEA is partly due to the shift towards converged devices with real-time e-mail becoming the first critical application, after voice, for enterprise customers.

Nokia, RIM, Qtek, i-mate and HP — the top five vendors in the converged device space — all increased shipments by more than 25% year-on-year in this sector during the first quarter of 2006.

Canalys research analyst Nick Spencer, added: “The vast majority of the devices shipping in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, as elsewhere in Europe, are Nokia S60 smart phones, but vendors such as Mio Technology, Motorola, Orange, Qtek and RIM are all enjoying year-on-year growth in excess of 200% there, albeit from fairly small bases.”

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