IT research and advisory company, Gartner said on Tuesday that global sales of mobile devices totalled 440.5 million units in the third quarter of 2011, up 5.6% from the same period last year, but smartphone growth slowed in mature markets.

Gartner said non-smartphone devices performed well, driven by demand in emerging markets for low-cost devices from white-box manufacturers, and for dual-subscriber identity module (SIM) devices.

“Our forecast for the end of the year remains broadly in line at a worldwide level as regions such as Asia/Pacific and the Middle East and Africa make up for weaker performance in the Western European market,” said Annette Zimmermann, principal analyst at Gartner, based in Munich.

Smartphone sales to end users reached 115 million units in the third quarter of 2011, up 42% from the third quarter of 2010. Sequentially, smartphone sales slowed to 7% growth from the second quarter of 2011 to the third quarter of 2011. Smartphone sales accounted for 26% of all mobile phone sales, growing only marginally from 25% in the previous quarter.

“Strong smartphone growth in China and Russia helped increase overall volumes in the quarter, but demand for smartphones stalled in advanced markets such as Western Europe and the US as many users waited for new flagship devices featuring new versions of the key operating systems,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Slowdowns also occurred in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.”

“Some consumers held off upgrading in the third quarter because they were waiting for promotions on other new high-end models that were launched in the run-up to the fourth quarter holiday season,” Cozza said. “Other consumers were waiting for a rumoured new iPhone and associated price cuts on older iPhone models; this affected US sales particularly.”

Nokia continued to be the worldwide leader in mobile device sales as it accounted for 23.9% of global sales. The second quarter of 2011 was the low point for Nokia, and the third quarter brought signs of improvement. Dual-SIM phones in particular, and feature phones generally, maintained Nokia's momentum in emerging markets.

Samsung became the number one smartphone manufacturer worldwide as sales to end users tripled year over year to reach 24 million.

Apple shipped 17 million iPhones, an annual increase of 21%, but down nearly three million units from the second quarter of 2011 because of Apple's new device announcement in October. Gartner said it believed Apple would bounce back in the fourth quarter because of its strongest ever pre-orders for the iPhone 4S in the first weekend after its announcement.

The Android OS accounted for 52.5% of smartphone sales to end users in the third quarter of 2011, more than doubling its market share from the third quarter of 2010.

“Android benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems such as Windows Phone 7 and RIM,” Cozza said. “Apple's iOS market share suffered from delayed purchases as consumers waited for the new iPhone. Continued pressure is impacting RIM's performance, and its smartphone share reached its lowest point so far in the US market, where it dropped to 10%.” - I-Net Bridge