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Mobile phone sales ring in strong

Music-enabled devices, Bluetooth pushed sales of mobile handsets up 14 percent in 2006, study shows.

Consumer mobile phone purchases in the U.S. jumped by double digits in 2006, spurred by music-enabled devices and Bluetooth capabilities, according to a study released Tuesday.

During the fourth quarter of 2006, 39 million units were purchased in retail stores, marking the largest three-month sales period in the year, according to a report by consumer research firm The NPD Group. That increase represented a 14 percent jump over the same period a year ago.

"A continual flow of new devices with data-capable features, combined with carrier promotions and rebates, have served to broaden the market of consumers who purchase new phones and wireless plans," Ross Rubin, NPD's director of industry analysis, said in a statement.

Total sales to consumers during the year reached 143 million units, accounting for an estimated $8.8 billion in sales after rebates and promotions. Despite strong sales growth during the year, cell phone makers, most of whom are showcasing their wares this week at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Orlando, Fla., still encountered meager profits as they engaged in price wars in emerging markets.

Music-enabled phone devices represented 32 percent of all sales in the fourth quarter, versus only 18 percent in the second quarter.

Mobile phones with Bluetooth capability accounted for nearly half of all consumer phones sold during the fourth quarter, compared with 31 percent in the first quarter. Camera phones, meanwhile, continue to be popular, generating two-thirds of all mobile device sales during the fourth quarter.

Among equipment makers, Motorola remained on top with a 33 percent slice of the U.S. mobile phone market during the year. Nokia, Samsung and LG Electronics each represented approximately 15 percent of the market.