In the midst of one of the worst quarters for businesses in decades, smartphone sales rose 3.7% worldwide in the 4th quarter of 2008 according to Gartner Research. Despite the positive sales numbers, fewer "must-have" devices and the overall economic downslide slowed down sales from the third quarter. Despite seeing their smartphone revenue drop off 17% to 15.6 million units in the last three months of 2008, Nokia remained the market leader although the percentage of the market held by the Finnish manufacturer dropped sharply from 50.9% to 40.8%. BlackBerry maker RIM was second with 19.5% of sales, up sharply from 10.9%. RIM sold 85% more smartphones over the prior year as sales hit 7.4 million handsets. In the quarter, RIM launched two handsets that were widely anticipated, the BlackBerry Bold and the BlackBerry Storm. The former is the first 'Berry with 3G capabilities while the latter is the first touchscreen model. Apple more than doubled their market share from 5.2% to 10.7 as sales increased from 1.9 million iPhones sold, to 4.1 million. Rounding out the top five is HTC with a 20% increase in sales to 1.6 million units and a 4.3% market share, and Samsung with a 4.2% share and sales of 1.6 million phones, an increase of 138%.
The market share of smartphone operating systems was led by Symbian with a 47.1% cut of the OS market, down from 62.3% due to the decline in Nokia smartphone sales. RIM replaced Windows Mobile in the runner-up position with the RIM OS garnering a 19.5% piece of the pie. Gartner's Research Director Roberta Cozza said that this year would see a major battle among the different mobile platforms as the user's experience with the UI of different smartphones gains in importance.