The Wall Street Journal reports on data from technology market research firm ABI Research showing that the iPhone's share of the worldwide smartphone sales market slipped in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 16.6%, down from 18.1% in the previous quarter. Despite strong performance from Apple during the quarter, the overall market grew even faster, resulting in a dip for Apple's market share.
Apple's sales still grew, just not as quickly as everybody else's. Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, which is 18% more than in the quarter before. But the overall smartphone market grew 26% in the same period of time, as Motorola Inc. introduced its first devices on Google Inc.'s Android platform and Nokia Oyj boosted its sales by 4.6 million alone.
Not mentioned in the article is the fact that Apple's sales, with only a single iPhone model, tend to follow something of a cyclical pattern centered around new handset launches in June or July of each year. While Apple experienced record-high iPhone sales for the fourth quarter coming on the heels the third quarter's first full sales period for the iPhone 3GS, the margin of improvement was likely smaller than otherwise would have been if the third quarter had not had the boost of new hardware behind it. Manufacturers offering multiple models of smartphones are more likely to see more consistent performance reflecting overall industry trends as they introduce new and updated models at staggered intervals.