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Mobile sales jump in 2003 - survey

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AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) -- Global sales of mobile phones exceeded 510 million units in 2003, well above even the most bullish expectations and growth continues at a rapid rate in 2004, research group Gartner Dataquest said on Tuesday.

Based on preliminary numbers, Gartner said it expected mobile phone unit sales of 560 million in 2004 amid strong demand for color screen and camera models in mature markets such as Europe, Japan and the United States, as well as booming emerging markets such as China, Brazil, Russia and India.

"It is an exceptionally strong market. It's much stronger than the handset makers themselves have indicated,'' said Gartner analyst Ben Wood.

Most handset makers said the total market was around 460 million units in 2003, while market researchers had expected 500 million, up from around 420 million in 2002. By underplaying the total size of the market, the number of phones sold gives manufacturers a larger market share.

The world's largest handset maker Nokia said it had sold 55.3 million phones in the final quarter of 2003, Motorola 22.4 million, Samsung Electronics 15.5 million, Siemens 15.2 million, LG nine million and Sony Ericsson eight million.

Gartner said mobile phones continued to sell well, even after the peak Christmas holiday selling season.

"We're not seeing any let-up in demand. Over Chinese New Year (in late January) we continued to see strong sales to consumers. There is some seasonality and the first quarter is not going to be as strong as the fourth, but some manufacturers are still struggling to meet demand,'' Wood said.

Gartner's sales estimates are shipments to consumers, reflecting real end-demand, while manufacturers report sales to their distributors.

Gartner did not yet have sales statistics to consumers for individual handset companies and could not say which manufacturer had gained or lost market share with end-users.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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