Forecast: Mobile Phone Shipments’ Growth Slows In 2012, But Nokia/Microsoft May Survive

Analysts at Credit Suisse are forecasting slower growth in mobile phone shipments worldwide for this year, at a growth rate of 2%. The increase is higher than previous forecasts but is down from the 12% growth it had projected for 2011, according to this Reuters report.

According to the firm, they’re expecting to see 1.85 billion handset sales in 2012, up from the 2011 forecast of 1.82 billion. They’re also surprisingly bullish on Nokia’s fate in the new year.

Perhaps the bigger takeaway from the analysts’ projections is how well it expects smartphones to fare in the coming years. By 2015, they are predicting that smartphone sales are on track to reach annual shipments of over 1 billion. The sales of these devices will eventually account for nearly 80% of handset industry revenue.

In somewhat related news, the brokerage also upped Nokia to “outperform,” saying that the handset maker will start to benefit from its transition from Symbian to Windows Phone in the second half of 2012, and will reach a “crossover” point in Q3 when Windows Phone begins to outsell Symbian.

Credit Suisse’s Kulbinder Garcha raised his price target to €6 from €4 on Nokia, saying, “Nokia’s focus on Windows will allow the company to drive a recovery through 2012 in both its top-line and earnings.” He raised his 2012 and 2013 EPS estimates to €0.25 and €0.60 per share, from a prior estimate of €0.24 and €0.40.

Garcha says his firm believes Nokia can command a 13% market share within the Windows Phone ecosystem, given its “sensible and aggressive pricing” and “decent support for Windows ecosystem as confirmed by our recent survey of carriers. (Really?) “And the quality of the Windows platform is quite good,” he added.

OK, the last one he can have – Windows Phone’s quality is good. But the first two are essentially stating that there’s a good chance that Windows Phone can make it as a viable “third ecosystem” after iOS and Android, and that carriers are interested in pursuing that option. This is based on surveys of 27 executives of global telcos who were found to be “widely supportive” of Nokia/Windows Phone.

Hmm. Given this great support from carriers (???), it’s odd that retail employees are reportedly being paid off by Microsoft and Nokia $10-$15 per handset sale to recommend Windows Phone to customers, then, isn’t it?