Worldwide shipments of handheld devices ended 2003 about two million units shy of the total posted in 2002 as users continued to favour cell phones and smart phones over the traditional personal digital assistant (PDA), according to research group IDC.
Shipments actually grew 3.2 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to last year on the back of a strong consumer holiday shopping season, IDC said. But the 10.4 million units shipped in 2003 dropped 17.9 per cent from the 12.6 million units shipped in 2002. Shipments also fell from 2001 to 2002.
For this study, IDC defined handhelds as pocket-size devices that access and manage data.
The category had been losing ground to shipments of cell phones with limited data management capabilities as well as smart phones that combined the full functionality of a PDA with a cell phone, IDC said.
In order for handheld vendors to increase shipments, they would have to design devices that offered features that cell phones couldn’t match, such as media players or digital cameras, the market research company said.
Cell phones with cameras have sold well worldwide, but the image quality produced by camera phones is generally low.
PalmOne has led the market for handheld devices for several quarters, and maintained that lead in both the fourth quarter and the full year with about 38 per cent market share in both periods.
HP posted strong growth in the fourth quarter, doubling the number of shipments in the quarter compared to last year.
The wide range of iPaq PDAs that HP introduced over the year helped it boost shipments and remain in second place with a 22 per cent market share for 2003, IDC said.
Sony lost ground but posted strong growth in the fourth quarter based on excellent holiday sales to remain in third place for both the quarter and year with about 14 per cent market share in both periods, IDC said.
Dell completed the fourth quarter and its first full year in the handheld business in fourth place. Sales of the new Axim X3 handhelds helped it end the full year with 5.9 per cent market share.
The top four positions in the handheld market remained static all year. However, Toshiba lost ground in the fourth quarter to German upstart Medion, which sells low-cost PDAs that gained ground with European buyers. Toshiba remained in fifth place for the full year with a 3 per cent market share, but Medion posted 2.8 per cent market share in the fourth quarter.