As with many other industries, this does not look like it will be a banner year for cellular phones. According to the latest bit of bad news to reach my desk, the global mobile phone market will shrink something like 9%, according to Strategy Analytics. And the group says the first half of the year is expected to be very weak.

The analysis firm said that forecast shipments will make 2009 "the weakest year since the modern cell-phone industry began in 1983." That echoes what


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just announced. The world's No. 1 handset vendor said it expects the world mobile device market to decline about 10% this year.

The economic slowdown also led to the mobile industry's weakest fourth-quarter showing since 2001, according to Strategy Analytics. Shipments in the fourth quarter of 2008 slumped 10% year-to-year to only 295 million units.

Strategy Analytics found that three of the top five handset vendors (Nokia,





) grew at negative rates in the last quarter. Samsung reportedly performed best grabbing an 18% global share and its mobile division generated an operating profit , although a lot smaller profit (70% smaller) than the year before. Samsung said it expects the global handset market to contract by 5%-10% this year.

I'll be in attendance at next month's GSMA World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, to report on how all of this plays out.

Android Glut?

There are also lots of rumors that we'll be seeing a new generation of


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Android OS devices at that show. Today's speculation concerns a China-based handset manufacturer


that could be launching an Android phone in Barcelona. The firm, known more for its mobile broadband USB modems than handsets, hinted (for a few days) on its Web site that an Android device would be among its new products to be announced at the show. Last year, Huawei promised an Android phone for sometime in 2009.

Analysts expect we might see as many as new 20 Android-based devices to be announced this year, from such brand names as


, Huawei,






, as well as several original design manufacturers, including







and Pantech.

HTC is the only vendor to date to have commercially launched an Android-based device, the


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G1. A new version of the device (the G2?) is reportedly ser for launch this quarter and will also be announced in Barcelona. Samsung, the world's second-largest handset vendor, has confirmed it will launch its first Android-based unit this year. Other members of the Open Handset Alliance (basically a corporate group of Android supporters) include SonyEricsson and Motorola.

Pre-Release News

Several blogs and Web sites are reporting that




Best Buy

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are working on a retail deal to sell the upcoming Pre smartphone . Palm and Vodafone


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have signed a deal that would Vodafone the sole network operator to offer a GSM version of the Pre in the U.K.

Queuing-Up for XpressMusic

Finally, according to an

Associated Press

dispatch, would-be customers lined up overnight in London to get their hands on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic handset -- the company's first touch-screen phone. Like any other touch-screen phone to make it to market, someone has dubbed it a possible iPhone killer. Of course, that's yet to be seen.

The device, which has a recommended retail price of £249, goes on sale in the U.K. next Friday. I plan to report on my experience with the handset in the very near future.

Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.