back to article Perky smartphone figures can't stop droop of worldwide mobe sales

Worldwide mobile phone sales fell 1.7 per cent in 2012, a shrinkage of 30 million units from 2011. Increasing smartphone sales were not enough to compensate for the fall in feature phone sales, according to a Gartner report. Total global sales to end users for 2012 were down 30 million units to 1.75 billion from 1.78 billion in …


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  1. frank ly

    Buyers are getting full?

    “Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year,"

    I don't understand how 'intense market competition' could weaken sales.

    Eventually, perhaps soon, everybody who wants a feature/smart phone will have one and then the market will be limited to upgrades and replacements - until the 'next big must have thing' comes along.

    It would be interesting to see figures for sales of second hand mobile phones, from eBay etc. to gauge the total number of people buying phones.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: Buyers are getting full?

      >I don't understand how 'intense market competition' could weaken sales

      You and me both. My Tosh-o-meter certainly twitched at that one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Buyers are getting full?

      Maybe people are putting off upgrading or even buying their first smartphone because they're waiting for the next model to come out. If there's a perception that a new iPhone or Samsung is around the corner whilst Nokia are planning an even better model for less, they may wait and continue using their existing phone.

      But also, I don't think people are as obsessed with upgrading their phones anymore. The novelty is wearing off like removable fascias in the 90s, so they're now happy to just keep what works until there's a compelling reason to upgrade. In an age of smartphones like the iPhone, no non-smartphone has a wow factor anymore, so those who don't want a smartphone just want a phone that does the job.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Buyers are getting full?

        > I don't understand how 'intense market competition' could weaken sales.

        If you're competing against rivals, you've also competing against your future models. You won't want to release a phone that is going to wear out too quickly, because people won't buy from you again. Sony are making more of their range waterproof, making durability mainstream rather than reserving it for niche models. My last few phones have had compromises, but this one is alright- think I'll stick with it til it dies.

  2. JimmyPage Silver badge

    As with desktops

    so with mobiles. Everyone who wants one has one. Simples. Now we're entering the mature market phase, where you need to persuade people they should upgrade, or target people seeking replacements.

    The past 15 years have seen a frenetic amount of R&D and innovation, but that's plateaued.

    Remember all those out of work car marketing executives ? I hope you kept their number.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: As with desktops

      That's right. I've had the same non-smart phone for 6 years now. I don't need a smartphone, I've got a laptop. I don't want a smart phone, I don't want to be answering emails in my own time.

      It's like electric cookers. Once every bugger has got one, you only have a replacement market.

    2. Mark .

      Re: As with desktops

      Indeed. I'm wondering if we're now going to see doom and gloom from the media of "The mobile phone is dead! No one wants mobile phones anymore! Mobile phones face cometition from new Smart TVs! Apple's new OS can't halt decline of mobile phone industry!" Or maybe they might realise that, as with PCs, it's just market saturation, combined with there not being a great economic climate right now.

      (And as for the article, distinguishing between "feature" and "smart" phone is a bit pointless, as they're just different ways of marketing, with no objective difference - separating out dumb phones might make more sense.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re: As with desktops - indeed.

        I've already had it explained to me that "A BlackBerry isn't a smartphone, unlike my iPhone."

        Apart from a web browser, messaging, gps, camera, sd card, electronic compass, accelerometer, NFC, Bluetooth and wi-fi, what else is needed to make something a "smartphone" rather than a "feature phone"?

        Paris, because nobody really knows whether she's smart or just relies on her features.

        1. Robert E A Harvey
          Paris Hilton

          Upvoted for Paris

          But I am fairly sure she ain't smart enough not to need her features.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ahhh, well that's the reason Windows Mobile 8 sales are so low, said a smiling Steve Balmer. I told you it wasn't our fault.

  4. jubtastic1

    Refresh cycle?

    Contract Dumbphones are typically eligible for yearly upgrades, whilst smartphones average 18-24 months, if smartphone marketshare is increasing you'd expect a drop in total mobe shipments no?

  5. Dr_N

    II used to change my phone every 8-12 months..

    ... but my current phone is now over 2 years old.


    Because I don't want to buy a huge unpocketable touch slab without any physical keys

    Maybe manufacturers should go back to making a wider variety of phone types?

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      But *why* did you change your phone ...

      my phone history:

      1994: Motorola M300 on 1-2-1 that lasted until 1997 when we (MrsJP and I) were given a Nokia (can't recall the model) which had no new features but was smaller with more talk/standby time

      I actually revived the M300 for a couple of years when Virgin started - bought a SIM

      2001 - moved up to a Philips Savvy. This was because I wanted to have SMS

      2005 - moved up to a Sony W800, as I wanted bluetooth, and liked the idea of the walkman

      2008 - was given an HTC by work

      2009 - was given an N5800 by work

      2011 - was given an HTC by work - still my main phone.

      From 2005s W800i, the only things that have really been ADDED are 3G and WiFi. Beyond that why do I need a new phone. Sure, I *could* get an iPhone. But it wouldn't really give me anything I haven't got already. My only grumble with the HTC Windows phone is lack of apps, but nothing I actually need.

      The next big thing could be 4G, but is it enough ? Especially as most people who might benefit will probably have WiFi enabled phones and a host of hotspots nearby.

  6. another_vulture

    World population is 7.066 Billion

    At the rate of 1.75 billion/yr, we need 4 years to provide each human a phone. This includes every infant and every person in North Korea. Sure, some folks get a new phone every year, and some have more than one phone.

    If half to population has phones and the average phone life is 2 years, that accounts for the entire market. Why do we expect any growth?

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Why do we expect any growth?

      ... but it's Shiney!

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