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Smartphone sales grow, everything else, not so

15 Feb 2013

Smartphones continue to drive overall mobile phone sales as feature phones trail way behind in the market.

That is according to research group Gartner, who unsurprisingly reports record smartphone sales of 207.7 million units during the fourth quarter of 2012, up 38.8% from the same period last year. Wow.

At the other end of the spectrum however, feature phones continue to live a sorry existence, with demand weakening after shifting only 264.4 million units, a 19.3% drop during the quarter.

To be frank 264.4 million units of anything is good going, but with Gartner predicting smartphones to smash the billion unit mark this year, feature phones are living on borrowed time.

“The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009,” says Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, in response to worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaling 1.75 billion units in 2012, a 1.7% decline from 2011 sales.

“Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year.”

The Usual Suspects:

Apple and Samsung together raised their worldwide smartphone market share to 52% from 46.4% in the third quarter of 2012, with the South Korean company ending the year top of the tree in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales.

Apple 0-1 Samsung. If only anybody was actually keeping count.

“There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the No. 3 spot in global smartphone sales,” Gupta says, ignoring Techday's childish point scoring system.

“The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products.

"Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand.”

Huawei had a good fourth quarter however, which helped it reach the No. 3 position among smartphone vendors for the first time, as the company sold 27.2 million smartphones to end users, up 73.8% from 2011.

Nokia’s handset sales also improved from a good response to its Asha mobile phones and the launch of the latest Lumia Windows Phone 8 models.

But it was not sufficient to stop Nokia losing further market share, totaling 18%, the lowest it has ever been after sales of 39.3 million smartphone sales worldwide, down 53.6% from 2011.

Operating System:

In the smartphone operating system, Android dominated the OS market, capturing over a 50% share and widening the gap with Apple’s iOS.

While Android grew 87.8% during the quarter, RIM declined 44.4% in the same period.

“2013 will be the year of the rise of the third ecosystem as the battle between the new BlackBerry10 and Widows Phone intensifies,” Gupta says.

“As carriers and vendors feel the pressure of the strong Android’s growth, alternative operating systems such as Tizen, Firefox, Ubuntu and Jolla will try and carve out an opportunity by positioning themselves as profitable alternatives.”