Nokia led all handset makers and was followed by Motorola and Samsung, but the sales record comes as top vendors have been reporting declining profit margins
One billion mobile phones were sold worldwide for the first time ever last year driven by growth in emerging markets, according to the latest market statistics from IDC.
Mobile phone manufacturers sold a total of 1.02 billion handsets in 2006, an increase of 22.5 per cent on the 832 million devices shipped in 2005, with a record quarterly sales total of almost 300 million units in the three months ended 31 December 2006.
However, despite record handset sales IDC said this was against a backdrop of some of the world's top mobile phone vendors reporting declining profit margins.
The main reason for the increase was booming sales in the emerging markets of Asia-Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, which have now surpassed shipments to mature markets in Japan, North America and Western Europe, according to IDC.
Ramon Llamas, research analyst in IDC's mobile technology and tracking team, said in the report: "IDC expects this trend to continue as mature markets reach saturation and emerging markets, with much lower teledensity, provide ample opportunity for handset vendors to attract first-time users."
IDC also highlighted new innovative mobile technologies introduced during 2006, including many location-based services and RIM's consumer-targeted Pearl device.
Ryan Reith, research analyst in IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracking Group, said in the report: "We believe the Pearl was a trend-setting device because it was the first pro(con)sumer release from a company that has always been associated with strictly business-focused users. It is no secret that the vast majority of people in society use email, regardless of their profession, and a device like this has made mobile email more of a reality."
Nokia ended 2006 as market leader for mobile handset shipments, followed by Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG Electronics, according to the IDC statistics.