Shipments rose 29.3 percent to 152.7 million, according to data released Thursday by research company IDC, which attributed the gain to higher sales of so-called midrange phones that offer color and photo features.
Though the number of shipments is high compared with the same period last year, it represents a drop of 5.9 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2003. Analysts said the slight decrease was due to a normal post-holiday slowdown.
Nokia maintained its lead in market share, but it recorded a drop of 19.2 percent compared with the fourth quarter, primarily because of a lack of midrange phones, IDC said. Motorola and Samsungat the expense of Nokia. , driven by sales of GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) camera phones, boosted its market share to 16.6 percent. Samsung's market share rose to 13.1 percent because of offerings like camera and camcorder phones, IDC said.
IDC expects the number of wireless subscribers to reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2004. The research company predicted that mobile phone shipments will top 595 million in 2004 and 800 million in 2008.
The company also forecast that annual sales of 3G, or third-generation, cell phones won't surpass the 100 million mark until 2007.
"A compelling case for 3G adoption by consumers has yet to be made. Simply put, there are very few reasons to drive the vast majority of consumers to buy a new 3G mobile phone," Alex Slawsby, senior analyst in IDC's mobile devices program, said in a statement. "We expect converged mobile devices, powered by Symbian and Microsoft, as well as 2.5G color-screen and camera phones, to be the core of the overall market for several years."