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Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, increased its market share during 2005 to levels not seen for more than two years.

The Finnish company had 35 per cent of the handset sales, with 82m phones sold, in the three months to December 31, according to research from Gartner, the technology
analysts. This was its best market share figure since the second quarter of 2003.

Second-placed Motorola’s share also increased, to 17.8 per cent, as it enjoyed success with cheap handsets in emerging markets, and elsewhere with its popular thin Razr model.

However some of Motorola’s later ‘four-letter’ models, such as the Slvr L7, had been “misunderstood” by customers, said Carolina Milanesi, a principal analyst at Gartner. “It should have had the same response as the Razr – it’s doing well, but not as well as Motorola hoped for in some markets,” she said.

Sony Ericsson, a London-based joint venture between its Japanese and Swedish parents, slipped from fifth into a close fifth place behind LG, after making some gains on the third quarter due to popularity of its Walkman-branded phones.

Sony Ericsson, which has focused on selling higher end phones rather than on volume sales, yesterday said it would begin selling camera phones with Sony’s CyberShot camera brand and with blogging and search tools from Google.

Total mobile phone sales reached record levels as developing countries adopted the devices in increasing numbers, with 816.6m handsets sold worldwide during the year,
a 21 per cent increase on 2004.

Latin America was the fastest-growing region with a 40 per cent, while Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa grew at 39 per cent. The more mature markets of Western Europe and North America grew at 11 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, while Japan, considered a leader in mobile phone adoption, grew at a rate of just 3 per cent.

The six biggest handset makers – Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and BenQMobile – increased their collective market share from 78 per cent in the first quarter to 84 per cent in the fourth quarter.

The maturing of developed markets and surge in emerging markets explained by the biggest six mobile phone makers increased their collective strength, Ms Milanesi said, as developing markets were driven by price while maturing markets wanted technological innovation, both of which were difficult for small companies to achieve.

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