Mobile phone sales fell by almost 1% last year, according to Gartner (http://www.gartner.com) researchers. However, sales of smartphones grew, thanks to the success of the iPhone, BlackBerry and Google Android phones.

Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 1.211 billion units in 2009, a 0.9 %decline from 2008, according to Gartner. In the fourth quarter of 2009, the market registered a single-digit growth as mobile phone sales to end users surpassed 340 million units, an 8.3% increase from the fourth quarter of 2008.

“The mobile devices market finished on a very positive note, driven by growth in smartphones and low-end devices,” says Carolina Milanesi, research director at Gartner. ā€Smartphone sales to end users continued their strong growth in the fourth quarter of 2009, totalling 53.8 million units, up 41.1% from the same period in 2008. In 2009, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units, a 23.8% increase from 2008. In 2009, smartphone-focused vendors like Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) successfully captured market share from other larger device producers, controlling 14.4 and 19.9% of the worldwide smartphone market, respectively.ā€

Throughout 2009, intense price competition put pressure on average selling prices (ASPs). The major handset producers had to respond more aggressively in markets such as China and India to compete with white-box producers, while in mature markets they competed hard with each other for market share. Gartner expects the better economic environment and the changing mix of sales to stabilize ASPs in 2010.

The two best performers in 2009 were Android and Apple. Android increased its market share by 3.5 % points in 2009, while Apple’s share grew by 6.2% points from 2008, which helped it move to the No. 3 position and displace Microsoft Windows Mobile.