Growth in Symbian Phone Sales Continues to Slow

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Mobile phone OS developer Symbian's growth continues to slow down, the company reported on Tuesday.

The number of phones shipped with the OS inside in the second quarter increased by just 5 percent year on year. In the first quarter, the annual growth rate was 16.5 percent, and last year it grew even faster.

Yet the smartphone market as a whole continued to grow at 16 percent year on year during the second quarter, according to Gartner.

A total of 19.6 million Symbian based phones shipped between April and June, compared to 18.7 million units during the second quarter last year and 18.5 million during the first three months of 2008, according to Symbian.

The marked slowdown is alarming, according to Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight. He sees a couple of explanations for it. Since most Symbian devices are high-end phones, the company is dependent on more mature markets where phone sales have slowed. But the main reason is that Nokia has been quiet on the Symbian front, and Symbian sales are dominated by the Finnish phone giant, according to Blaber.

Sales of Symbian-based devices are expected to pick up in the second half, though, as Nokia launches phones like the N96. The platform will also get a boost from other devices, such as Samsung's Innov8, which has an 8-megapixel camera and HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) at 7.2M bps, according to Blaber.

The smartphone market is about to go through some major changes. Competition is heating up, with Apple's iPhone going global and the first Google Android phones also on the way.

While other players enter the market, or expand their position, those counting on Symbian are concentrating their efforts and pulling together. At the end of June, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and NTT DoCoMo announced their intent to unite Symbian OS and other software that build on it, including S60, UIQ and MOAP(S), to create one open mobile software platform.

The first version of the unified platform will become available during the first half of 2010, but that is not fast enough for Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner. To keep up with the competition she thinks it has be brought forward to some time next year.

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