Despite its weakened position in the smartphone segment and the iPhone grabbing all the headlines, Nokia still managed to maintain 37.7 percent of the overall handset market in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2009. But rival Samsung is getting closer.

336.5 million mobile phone handsets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009 - up 15.1 percent on Q3. ABI Research forecasts shipments to expand to 1.2 billion handsets in 2010

"2009 may have started with a whimper but by 4Q-2009 the global mobile handset market ended with a pretty reasonable bang," said Jake Saunders, vice-president for forecasting at ABI Research.

Mobile phone shipments 2009 Q4 by manufacturer

"Renewed consumer confidence in the second half of 2009 meant that shipments for the whole year only shrank 4.5 percent to 1.153 billion. Dire scenarios were mooted in early 2009. There is cautious optimism about 2010 despite the fragile nature of the global recovery."

Samsung, the market-share juggernaut, seems unstoppable. Between June 2008 and December 2009, Samsung increased its market share from 15.2 percent to 20.5 percent. Samsung has benefited from a strong line-up of feature phones as well as a strong reputation for innovative smartphones.

Korea's level of influence over the handset market is further underscored by LG, the third-largest handset vendor (10.1 percent). LG has been counting on its S-Class smartphone series to help it secure a bridgehead in the market.

"In 3Q-2009, Motorola, under the direction of Sanjay Jha, has come out of its corner fighting with a refreshed portfolio," adds practice director Kevin Burden.

"The Droid has received critical acclaim. However Motorola's market-share continued to contract to 3.6 percent."

Sony-Ericsson also experienced a contraction to 4.3 percent but has high hopes that its Android-based handsets will generate renewed interest.

HTC's market share did not fare well early last year, but its circumstances improved slightly in 4Q to 1.0 percent share. Notably, HTC announced a revamped handset portfolio strategy, not just targeting high-end smartphones but also launching smartphones that appeal to purchasers with smaller wallets. These low cost "HTC Smart" devices will rely on BREW.

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