Smartphone Unit Sales Set Annual Record Print E-mail
Written by Mike Buetow   
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 13:56

FRAMINGHAM, MA – The worldwide smartphone market grew 54.7% year over year in the fourth quarter as Apple unleashed its iPhone 4S on an eager marketplace.

Vendors shipped 157.8 million units during the period, up from 102 million units in 2010, IDC said. Year-over-year growth beat IDC's forecast of 40% for the quarter, and was up from 49.2% growth in the third quarter.

On a full-year basis, total smartphone shipment volumes reached 491.4 million units in 2011, up 61.3% from 304.7 million units in 2010. This was higher than IDC's full year estimate of 54.7% for the year, but still below 2010's year-over-year growth of 75.7%. Although this marks a slowdown from 2010, IDC still fully expects continued double-digit growth for the foreseeable future.

Smartphones continued to be one of the hottest consumer electronics products in the market, and was helped along by the launch of key devices. "By the end of the quarter, one out of every three mobiles phones shipped worldwide was a smartphone," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst. "The launch of Apple's iPhone 4S played a key role in smartphone growth to capture pent-up demand, and smartphone launches from other vendors also provided a broad selection to meet varying preferences and budgets."

The variety of offerings have become more nuanced as smartphone makers try to grow their respective user bases in emerging and developed markets alike.

Apple climbed back into the market leadership position with the launch of its iPhone 4S worldwide, and in the process it reached a new shipment volume record for itself and for the entire industry for a single quarter. Although the iPhone 4S disappointed some detractors by lacking 4G LTE connectivity or a different size screen, demand was high for the device. In addition, the combination of holiday seasonality, a delay in product launch, and the addition of multiple mobile operators helped drive volumes higher.

Samsung marked a series of milestones for the quarter: breaking the 30 million units mark for the first time, posting the largest year-over-year increase among the top vendors, and finishing 2011 as the overall smartphone market leader. Its series of Galaxy smartphones continued to expand, with attention to both the high-end (Galaxy S II, Galaxy Nexus) and mass market (Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Y), while the company updated its Omnia and Focus smartphones with Windows Phone Mango.

Nokia posted the largest year-over-year decrease among the top vendors, but its smartphone strategy took another step forward with the release of its first Windows Phone smartphones, the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800. CEO Steve Elop claims that the company shipped "well over a million units" in its debut quarter, and is using early feedback to adjust its marketing and sales strategy. At the same time, demand for its Symbian-powered smartphones appears to have waned, and smaller volumes are expected in 2012.

Research In Motion finished the quarter with a mixed bag of results. Its new BB OS 7-powered BlackBerry smartphones reached additional markets, and total volumes for the quarter staved off a fourth consecutive quarter of sequential decline. Still, overshadowing these results was the global network outage in October, followed by announcements that its first BB 10-powered smartphones will not arrive to market until late 2012. Such a delay gives the competition opportunity to attack RIM's strongholds. With new Chairperson and CEO Heins in place as of January, RIM assures that change is coming both internally and externally.

HTC maintained a strong pace of device releases during the quarter, with the launch of the Windows Phone-powered Titan and Radar models, the Beats-influenced Rezound, and the LTE-enabled Vivid in addition to multiple other Android-powered smartphones. As has been HTC's approach all year long, these device launches kept the company's product portfolio well attuned to both operator and end-user tastes. Despite the many high-profile launches during the quarter, however, the Taiwanese vendor still shipped lower volumes compared to the previous quarter.



Top 5 Worldwide Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Q4 2011 (millions of units)

Vendor

Q4 2011 Shipment Volumes

Q4 2011 Market Share

Q4 2010 Shipment Volumes

Q4 2010 Market Share

Year Over Year Change

Apple

37.0

23.5%

16.2

15.9%

128.4%

Samsung

36.0

22.8%

9.6

9.4%

275.0%

Nokia

19.6

12.4%

28.1

27.6%

-30.6%

Research In Motion

13.0

8.2%

14.6

14.3%

-11.0%

HTC

10.2

6.5%

8.7

8.5%

17.2%

Others

42.0

26.6%

24.8

24.3%

69.4%

Total

157.8

100.0%

102.0

100.0%

54.7%

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, Feb. 6, 2012. Note: Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 February 2012 13:58
 

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