While the global mobile phone market grew by nearly 2 percent last year, the number of smartphone shipments almost equaled those of feature phones for the first time, as Samsung and Apple achieved record shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the latest findings from IDC.
Representing 45.5% of all mobile phone shipments, smartphones accounted for the highest percentage of sales yet, as vendors shipped 219.4 million units in the last quarter of 2012, an achievement that can be likened to Samsung's record-setting smartphone shipments. Taking 29% of the overall market in 4Q12, Sammy shipped 63.7 million units to earn the title of most smartphones shipped in a single quarter, while remaining in the lead.
The report highlighted the Korean company's strong Galaxy-branded Android family, as well as its mid-range and entry-level devices that appeal to the lower-end market, as reasons for the vendor's success. While Apple also saw a record number of shipments in the fourth quarter, thanks to the iPhone's success in Greater China and the U.S., the Cupertino-based company once again came second to Samsung, accounting for 21.8% of the market and shipping 47.8 million units.
Meanwhile, another first took place last year, with Huawei finding itself among the top three smartphone vendors in the world, as the company had previously been a Top 10 vendor. Shipping 10.8 million units in 4Q12, Huawei accounted for 4.9% of the market, figuring more than an 89% year-over-year growth. With the launch of its Ascend line and this year's upcoming 6.1-inch Ascend Mate, Huawei had broadened its offerings to include high-end smartphones, in addition to inexpensive devices, which fueled its growth, according to IDC research manager Ramon Llamas.
"The fact that Huawei and ZTE now find themselves among the Top 5 smartphone vendors marks a significant shift for the global market," noted Llamas. "Both companies have grown volumes by focusing on the mass market, but in recent quarters they have turned their attention toward higher-end devices. In addition, both companies have pushed the envelope in terms of industrial design with larger displays and smaller form factors, as well as innovative applications and experiences."
Rounding out the top five smartphone vendors were Sony and ZTE, shipping 9.8 and 9.5 million units, respectively, bumping HTC and RIM down into the "others" spot. Despite that drop, HTC and the BlackBerry-maker were able to hold onto the fourth and fifth spots for the top five smartphone vendors in 2012, shipping 32.6 and 32.5 million units throughout the year.
While Nokia just made the cut for the top three smartphone vendors last year, shipping 35.1 million units, the company's sales only represented 4.9% of the market, leaving room for Samsung and Apple to take the lead once more. Shipping 135.9 million iPhones in 2012, Apple held 19.1% of the market overall, as older models of the popular smartphone found success in the wake of the iPhone 5 launch. Yet, it was Samsung who took the top spot again, shipping 215.8 million units, another record number, and holding 30.3% of the market.
With a new year upon us, it remains to be seen whether Samsung or Apple will be unseated from their rankings, though one thing is for sure, the smartphone race is certainly heating up!
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