Using data collected at the point of sale, GfK found that second-quarter sales of mobile handsets were up 5.15% to 7.5m handsets, compared with the same period in 2009, thanks to a rebound in pay-as-you-go phones and continuing demand for smartphones.
June turned in a particularly strong performance, up 6.8% on the prior year, capping the first time that the market saw three consecutive months of growth since the third quarter of 2008.
“The slowdown in pre-pay has in the past overshadowed the success of contract [sales],” said Ben Mansell, analyst at GfK. “However, a series of successful promotional activities across the industry has pushed the pre-pay market back into growth, taking the total market with it … The recession may be lifting from the industry.”
But the trend towards longer-term contracts, which lower the upfront costs of expensive devices such as the iPhone, could be storing up trouble for later in the year, GfK warned.
Research released last week by Ofcom, the media regulator, found that more than 80% of all new pay-monthly contracts lasted for 24 months. That marks a shift from 18 months, which overtook annual tie-ins in 2006.