Handheld Market Continues Decline, New Devices Lacking

The worldwide market for handheld devices continued along its downward path during the third quarter of 2006. According to IDC’s Worldwide Handheld QView, total worldwide shipments of handheld devices fell to 1.1 million units, down 15.4% from the previous quarter and down 31.3% from the same quarter one year ago. This quarter constitutes the eleventh consecutive quarter of year-on-year decline for the worldwide handheld market.

“Contributing significantly to the decrease in shipments this quarter was a lack of new devices being announced or shipped to the market,” said Ramon Llamas, research analyst for IDC’s Mobile Markets team. “Vendors continue to rely on models that have been on the market anywhere between two and four quarters. Without many new devices on the market in the third quarter, it brings into question how shipments will total during the fourth quarter when vendors typically expect a boost in shipments as a result of new devices coming to market.”

The absence of new models does not necessarily mean the end of the handheld market, however. “There are users who remain fiercely loyal to their handheld devices, and smaller niche users have emerged,” Llamas added. “For example, in some developing markets, the handheld device has been tremendously important in self-education, enabling users to continue learning outside the classroom once they have downloaded content through the PC. If usage for specific non-network tasks like self-education increase, we could expect an increase in shipments and possibly new devices that are optimized for particular tasks.”

Top Five Handheld Device Vendor Highlights

  • Palm. The Sunnyvale, California-based company remains the overall market leader, but was not immune from seeing its shipments drop year over year. After releasing both the Palm Z22 and the TX nearly a year ago, the company has yet to refresh its portfolio with a new device.
  • HP. HP remains the clear number two vendor in the handheld device market and the largest Microsoft Pocket PC-enabled handheld device vendor, with more than double the shipments of the next two vendors behind it. Of the leading vendors, however, HP suffered the largest year-on-year decline in shipments.
  • Dell. U.S.-based Dell finished the quarter in a tie with Mio for third place. The company has finished phasing out some of the older models from its portfolio and is concentrating on developing the Axim X51 platform with faster processors and more memory.
  • Mio. Having established itself as the number four vendor last quarter, Taiwan-based Mio took another step forward by tying with Dell for the number three position worldwide. Mio bucked the trend of declining year-on-year shipment levels by posting a 5.0% increase from one year ago. The company will face further competition from Dell for the number three position, but easily outpaces the next vendor, Sharp.
  • Sharp. Returning to the top 5 is Japanese vendor Sharp, which enjoyed the largest gain in year-on-year shipments. Several vendors follow closely behind Sharp, however, with fewer than 20,000 units separating it from the likes of ASUSTeK, Acer, and Fujitsu/Siemens.
Top 5 Vendors, Worldwide Handheld Device Shipments and Market Share, Q3 06
Vendor 3Q06 Unit Shipments 3Q06 Market Share 3Q05 Unit Shipments 3Q05 Market Share 3Q06/3Q05 Growth
1. Palm 450,000  40.9% 490,000  30.6% -8.2%
2. HP 240,000  21.8% 400,000  25.0% -40.0%
3. Dell 105,000  9.5% 160,000  10.0% -34.4%
4. Mio 105,000  9.5% 100,000  6.3% 5.0%
5. Sharp 40,000  3.6% 13,000  0.8% 207.7%
Others 160,000    14.5%   437,000    27.3%   -63.4%
Total 1,100,000    100.0%   1,600,000    100.0%   -31.3%
Source: IDC Worldwide Handheld QView, November 8, 2006


  • Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.
  • Handheld devices are pocket-sized, either pen or keypad-centric, and are capable of synchronizing with desktop or laptop computers. Handheld devices are designed to access and manage data including office documents, multimedia, and games.
  • Handheld devices do not include telephony but may include wireless capabilities that enable Internet access and text communication. These devices feature evolved operating systems or applications environments such as the Palm OS, Windows Mobile Pocket PC, Linux, or other proprietary platforms with the ability to download, run applications, and store user data beyond their required PIM capabilities.

IDC’s Worldwide Handheld QView provides device vendors, software developers, service providers, and component suppliers with timely and accurate information on the worldwide handheld market. The program provides quarterly measurements of worldwide unit shipments and vendor market shares.

For more information about IDC’s Worldwide Handheld QView program, please contact Jonathan Guloyan at 508-935-4296 or jguloyan@idc.com.

About IDC
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