Cell Phone Shipments No Longer Growing

Are cell phones no longer a growth business? At least in the fourth quarter, cell phone shipments actually declined. According to Deutsche Bank analyst Brian Modoff, shipments from the top five cell phone manufacturers (Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola) dropped 13 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2008. Unit shipments decelerated from 14 percent growth in the second quarter to 2 percent growth in the third quarter, and then finally went into negative territory in the fourth quarter.

Shipments for the top five started decelerating sequentially (quarter-over-quarter) in the third quarter, when they were down 2 percent, and then were down 4 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter. The deceleration is likely to continue through 2009.

Even Apple saw a 36 percent quarterly decline in sales of iPhones (4.4 million in the December quarter versus 6.9 million in the September quarter). And RIM’s Blackberry Storm sold only 500,000 units its first month, despite a $100 million marketing campaign.

As a result, Apple and RIM have about 3 percent market share between them, down from 4 percent in the third quarter, estimates Modoff. Still, that’s half of Motorola’s 6 percent share.