Gartner’s research shows that smartphone sales now account for nearly a third of all mobile phones sold worldwide, a huge 58% increase on 2010’s figures. Much of this was driven by a strong fourth quarter which saw 149 million smartphones sold – a large chunk of them iPhones.
While most mobile phone companies are showing flat sales, Apple produced a record breaking quarter that defied most analysts expectations and saw the company shift 37 million iPhone smartphones.
Apple also became the world’s top smartphone vendor for the quarter, with a market share of 23.8%, and the top smartphone vendor for 2011 as a whole, with a 19 per cent market share.
"Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011," said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner.
"In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales."
Nokia remains the top selling phone maker overall, shifting 422 million mobile phones in 2011 for a 23.8% market share, down from 28.9% in 2010, while Samsung sold 314 million for a share of 17.7%, up 0.1%. Apple is third with 5% up from 2.9% in 2010 – but unlike Samsung and Nokia does not make feature phones.
Samsung profited from strong smartphone sales of 34 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, and it remains the leader in the smartphone segment overall.
Nokia launched its new Lumia series of smartphones, which run Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 Mango operating system, its first re-entry to the smartphone market since the failure of Symbian, which just two years 2009 made up 40% of the total market. Symbian now makes up just 11.7% of the smartphone market.
"The troubled economic environment in Europe and Nokia’s weakened brand status posed challenges that were hard to overcome in just one quarter. However, Nokia proved its ability to execute and deliver on time with its new Lumia 710 and 800 handsets," said Cozza.
"Nokia will have to continue to offer aggressive prices to encourage communications service providers to add its products to portfolios currently dominated by Android-based devices."
RIM dropped to the No. 7 spot in the fourth quarter of 2011, with a 10.7 per cent decline. RIM has been troubled by its constant delays with its BlackBerry 10 platform, amongst a host of other problems. RIM is struggling to develope its ecosystem and convince developers to work with BlackBerry platforms. RIM continues to slowly bleed out its market share, its OS’s share dropping from 14.6% to just 8.8%. It was 20.7%, second place in 2009 – many analysts are already calling it a terminal decline.
ZTE moved into fourth place in the global handset market. ZTE posted a strong smartphone sales increase of 71 per cent sequentially, but much of its sales remain in its home market of China. It remains focused on low-cost smartphones that don’t appeal as much in the first world.
Huawei moved ahead of LG in the Android marketplace to become a top-four Android manufacturer, thanks to strong smartphone growth in the quarter. Huawei has made significant progress in moving to its own-branded devices, and it has continued to expand its portfolio into higher tiers as its tries to build more iconic products.
In terms of operating systems, Android remains at 50% when compared to the third quarter 2011. It is up from 30% year on year – much of which has come at the expense of Nokia’s Symbian operating system, which collapsed from 32% of the market in 2010, to just 11.7% – good enough for third, just below Apple’s iOS. iOS went from 15.8% this time last year to 23.8%.
"Expectations for 2012 are for the overall market to grow by about 7 per cent, while smartphone growth is expected to slow to around 39 per cent," said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner.
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