/ Technology

Who’s winning the mobile phone race?

Many smart phones side by side with screens of different colors

You’d be forgiven for thinking Nokia’s had a quiet time of late, but it’s still sitting pretty in pole position, selling more mobiles than any other manufacturer according to recent stats. But the tides are starting to turn…

As far as the rest of the mobile manufacturer table (provided by Gartner’s Q2 2011 figures) there’s been a lot of movement lower down the league, which suggests that come next year the giant may just be knocked from its majestic perch.

There are already questions surrounding this Scandinavian brand, since Nokia’s market share lead has in fact slipped from a dominant 30% last year, to a less impressive 23%.

So why is this mobile phone stalwart suffering? A few years ago it felt like there was a new Nokia handset every day – that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Perhaps “quality and not quantity” has become Nokia’s new in-house mantra, but I’m not convinced we’ve seen much of either of late.

The movers and shakers

It’s not only Nokia that’s resolutely clung to its spot, however, as Samsung has retained second place, while LG has held tight in third. Samsung’s sales figures have edged upwards, largely thanks to the best-selling Galaxy II handset, but LG, has shed numbers in both sales volume and its market share hold.

LG really has to start worrying about losing its third place, because who’s bobbing up behind them? Apple. Incredibly, Apple has shifted more than twice as many iPhones during this year’s second quarter than last. And it’s this aggression that has caused BlackBerry manufacturer, RIM, to drop in position.

Sony Ericsson certainly seems to be floundering. It has now dropped to a lowly 10th, doing worse than last year despite its recent efforts with a PlayStation-branded smartphone. What does Sony Ericsson have to do to grab your attention?

Motorola, meanwhile, Google’s latest acquisition, sold around two million fewer phones this time around and thus dropped two places to eighth. But can Motorola’s newly-attained Google clout change its fortune, and where does all this leave the still relatively new kid on the block, HTC?

As a keen and early advocate of Android, HTC has continued to rise, leaping from ninth place in the table last year to seventh, just behind freefalling BlackBerry. But are holes beginning to appear in HTC’s nouveau riche fabric, and should this ascent be attributed to a piggyback from a little green Android robot?

Android climb to fame

Talking of Android, Google’s mobile operating system has had a magnificent climb to fame – almost 47,000 Android handsets were sold in the second quarter of this year, up from just 11,000 last year. That’s a massive jump in market share terms – Android now holds a comfortable 43%.

Android’s rise to power is evidence of Nokia’s struggles. Nokia’s own OS (Symbian) last year held 40% of the market, but now only clings on to 22% – Android has kicked Nokia in the teeth, and its recent allegiance with Microsoft doesn’t look like it’s going to help.

The winners then aren’t necessarily those in the lead, but those heading in the right direction. With recent impressive numbers and the imminent arrival of the iPhone 5, Apple may be climbing up the chart very soon.

Nokia may be sitting pretty at the top, but it needs to get its act together. Smartphone sales might be up by 74%, but Nokia needs to change tact – it clearly can’t go on selling second-rate smartphones and feature phones for long and expect to stay in first place.


In the smartphone market, there has got to be a good opportunity for any manufacturer that focuses on some practical issues, for example:

* reliability (as reported in Which? magazine, smartphones tend to be less reliable than other mobiles)

* water resistance (water damage is a very common problem and manufacturers should realise that it rains in the UK)

* battery life (smartphones have pathetic battery life so need a larger battery and/or a battery that can be replaced without dismantling them)

* security (it’s not just business users that need this and there is plenty of scope for improvement)

* robustness (smartphones have large screens that are easily cracked)

Accommodating some of these changes might result in phones that are less sleek, but perhaps that is a small price to pay. Quite frankly, some of the current offerings are not fit for everyday use.

Any manufacturer that tackled these points would get my vote, and my money.

Yes! Definitely! Reliability is my main BlackBerry bugbear. Mine has always had a software fault that can’t be fixed by upgrading the software via my compute (mostly because the computer won’t connect to it – recognise it, but not connect).

The web browser crashes the phone on sites that don’t have a mobile version (and mobile versions tend not to have full functionality) like Which? Convo. I’ve removed the battery so many times the back is likely to fall off.

The messaging applications crash 5 or 6 times a day now – thankfull just a shut down fixes that, as a reboot takes at least 5 minutes if not more.

And battery life is less than 1 day, even with average use. If I’ve got a lot of emails to go through (on the bus I sort my volunteer role emails out), then I’m lucky to have battery left by the time I get home, even when it was charged overnight.

My ifriend says I need an iPhone. But then she’s just biased.