Gartner: Global mobile-phone sales up

The only region worldwide showing a dip in year-over-year handset sales in was Western Europe, according to market research firm, whose U.S. figures did not match up with NPD's.

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In spite of the economic slowdown, worldwide mobile-phone sales rose nearly 12 percent in the second quarter of 2008 from the same period in 2007, market research firm Gartner said Thursday.

Growth was driven largely by the Asia-Pacific region, in which sales grew 20.5 percent from the second quarter of 2007, and the Middle East and Africa, where handset sales increased 18 percent.

In the United States and Canada, 6.5 percent year-over-year growth was driven largely by sales of replacement handsets, as new subscribers only trickled in, Gartner said. (Fellow research firm NPD Group, by contrast, reported earlier this month that U.S. mobile-phone sales were 13 percent down from the second quarter of 2007.)

Gartner's study did find a decrease in mobile-phone sales in Western Europe: down 8.2 percent down from the second quarter of 2007. And while the research firm forecasts 11 percent industrywide growth in 2008, it expects revenue growth to fall slightly behind that, as the economy and tougher competition take a toll on prices.

"The economic environment continued to negatively impact mobile-phone sales in both mature and emerging markets," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said in a release. "Consumers in mature markets continued to favor midtier devices over high-end devices, while new subscribers continued to join mobile networks in emerging markets during the quarter. However, replacement sales remained weak, as consumers faced higher prices for fuel and food, in addition to higher levels of inflation."

The research firm has not changed its overall 2008 outlook of 1.28 billion handset sales.