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The end of easy growth in smartphones

At the end of last year I was saying that the smartphone boom was a tide that lifted all boats. That is no longer the case.

 

But the big story is that there has been a clear non-seasonal counter-cyclical decline in Nokia and RIM’s smartphone performance. RIM’s steady rise has come to an abrupt halt. Nokia’s decline has accelerate precipitously. So much so that Samsung and Apple have overtaken Nokia and RIM and it looks like HTC will overtake RIM within one quarter and perhaps Nokia as well.

The fortunes of vendors is now clearly tied to the fortunes of their platform choices. Android has a spotty record with Samsung[1] and HTC having accelerated growth with Android, Motorola and Sony Ericsson have not rallied to a similar degree (though they did remain operational). But it’s at least very clear that BlackBerry OS and Symbian are now a burden to their owners.

The fact that not all vendors benefit from a boom indicates that the early, happy days are over. People are noticing that there is a difference between smartphones and are not buying any and all. An era of competition will follow. I hinted that such a shift would happen when a “tipping point” was forecast and that point has been reached in several mature markets.

The consequences are that weaker platforms and vendors will come under increasing pressure.

Notes:

  1. Samsung decided to stop reporting the number of smartphones they sell. They also refuse to report the break-down between different platforms–they sell Windows Phone, Bada and Android devices. The figure I gave to Samsung is 19.9 million units, higher than 19.0 and 19.3 million from other analysts.