By Agence France-Presse Mobile phone handset sales grew 22% in the third quarter from the same period of 2002 and could reach half a billion units this year, a study released Dec. 8 said. Worldwide sales of mobile phones reached 132.8 million units in the third quarter, the study by Stamford, Conn., research firm Gartner Inc. found. "The mobile terminals market is exhibiting extraordinarily strong growth in 2003," Gartner analyst Ben Wood said in a statement. Nokia Corp. was the top maker, although its market share slipped to 34.2% in the third quarter from 35.5% in the same period last year. Motorola Inc. was the second-biggest maker with 14.7% of the market in the third quarter, followed by Samsung with 11.2%. Growth in sales was driven by users getting more sophisticated handsets, with camera phones in particular on the rise. But strong growth in sales was also seen among first-time users in Asia and eastern Europe. "The Europe, Middle East and Africa region accounted for 35.5% of the world's mobile phone sales, fueled by replacement buying in western Europe," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, adding that Russia in particular saw strong sales.