February 28, 2008 2:00 am

Mobile phone players ring the changes

Apple, Research In Motion and ZTE Corp joined the ranks of the world's 10 largest mobile phone makers in 2007, underlining how technology advances and emerging markets are producing a new cast of winners and losers in the industry.

Apple's much hyped iPhone, which went on sale in the US and Europe last year and set a new industry standard in mobile web browsing, transformed the US computer maker into the 10th largest handset manufacturer in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to Gartner, the research firm.

RIM's BlackBerry, whose success is rooted in its user friendly mobile email, did better than Apple, and the Canadian company became the sixth largest handset maker as measured by number of devices sold.

But perhaps the most interesting new entrant is ZTE, the Chinese telecoms equipment maker that is starting to give established western rivals, such as Nokia, a run for their money.

ZTE has struck deals with mobile operators including Vodafone, the world's largest operator by revenue, to provide cheap handsets for emerging markets.

Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner, said ZTE was producing handsets costing $40 (€60) or less for markets such as India, and becoming a "bit of an annoyance" for Nokia, the world's largest mobile maker.

ZTE's success contrasts sharply with the fall from grace of Motorola, the US telecoms company that is considering selling its loss-making handset business. Motorola saw its market share fall to 11.9 per cent in the last three months of 2007, compared to 21.5 per cent in the same period in 2006.

That 9.6 percentage point decline was worse than during the third quarter of 2007, and Gartner said Motorola could see a further fall in its market share in the first three months of 2008.

Motorola's strategy of increasing market share unravelled in late 2006 because it lacked new handsets to maintain profitability.

Nokia, which secured a record 40.4 per cent market share in the fourth quarter of 2007, and Samsung, the second largest manufacturer, continue to benefit from Motorola's woes.

Apple, RIM and ZTE were in the top 10 in the fourth quarter at the expense of BenQ, the Taiwanese mobile maker; Bird, the Chinese manufacturer; and Sagem, part of France's Safran group.

Global handset sales rose 16 per cent in 2007, to 1.2bn devices, but Gartner estimates the market will grow by 10 per cent in 2008.

Price war, Page 24

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