Samsung Takes Top Spot As Smartphone Market Grows

The worldwide smartphone market grew 42.6 per cent year over year in the third quarter of 2011 (3Q11), despite a slowdown within key mature markets. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped 118.1 million units in 3Q11 compared to 82.8 million units in the 3Q10. However, the 42.6 per cent growth was lower than IDC’s forecast of 49.1 per cent for the quarter and lower than 2Q11 growth of 66.7 per cent.

Smartphone growth came in lower than expected due to the delayed launch of the updated Apple iPhone. In previous years, the introduction of a new iPhone resulted in a spike in shipment volumes during the third quarter. Western Europe and the United States, two key regions for the iPhone launch each year, still posted sizable year-over-year gains, but lower than anticipated. Nonetheless, the worldwide market grew by double digits, underscoring the growing popularity of smartphones.

“Samsung’s ascendancy to the leadership position is the direct result of its broad and deep product portfolio,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. “Ever since the first Galaxy device launched last year, the company has aggressively expanded and refreshed its selection to include the latest innovations and most popular features. At the same time, its line-up of bada-branded smartphones has earned a welcome reception within key markets.

“At the same time, Samsung’s position will be a challenge to maintain, both in the fourth quarter and beyond,” added Llamas. “Apple’s fourth quarter launch of the iPhone 4S and lower pricing of older models will certainly boost volumes, and Nokia’s recent launch of Windows Phone smartphones marks the beginning of a new era for the company. While these point to larger volumes in the quarters to come, they will also lead to increased competition.”

“Vendors will struggle to maintain leadership of the global smartphone market this year given its continued high growth, which opportunities for multiple companies to grow,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. “Competitors will release smartphones with components, such as 3D displays, dual-core processors, and enhanced audio capabilities, that will help them drive higher shipment volumes and potentially leapfrog competitors.”


Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors

Samsung became the new leader in the worldwide smartphone market, with total smartphone shipments topping the 20 million unit mark for the first time in the company’s history. As in previous quarters, its Android-powered smartphones drove volumes higher, and joining the product mix was Samsung’s refreshed Galaxy S II. In addition, its bada-powered smartphones continued to gain salience in the market, and a new Windows Phone smartphone is expected to launch in 4Q11.

Apple, after taking the number one spot last quarter from Nokia, slipped to the number two spot worldwide. But even after relying on the iPhone 4 for five quarters and the iPhone 3G S for nine, demand for the iPhone remained strong enough for Apple to realize double-digit growth year over year. Now that Apple has launched its iPhone 4S and re-priced its older models in multiple countries, Apple stands poised to challenge Samsung for the leadership position.

Nokia maintained its third place position on the strength of its Symbian phones. Its most popular smartphones included older models, including the 5230, C5, and the C7. In addition, Nokia launched four models based on its newly enhanced Symbian Belle OS, including the Nokia 600, 603, 700, and 701 as well as its first MeeGo-powered smartphone, the N9. While these new models kept Nokia’s selection fresh, the N9 is expected to see limited availability and the Nokia 600 has been cancelled.

HTC moved up one spot and maintained its upward momentum during 3Q11. During the quarter, HTC acquired several companies to complement its devices, including Dashwire for cloud-based sync, Zoodles for kid-oriented applications, and a stake in audio company Beats. At the same time, HTC launched several devices for specific segments, including the multimedia-optimized Sensation, female oriented Rhyme, and the entry-level Explorer. HTC expects to ship similar volumes in 4Q11.

Research In Motion began shipping its new BB OS 7 smartphones to the market during 3Q11, including updated versions of the BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve, and the BlackBerry Torch. But, as in previous quarters, the company’s volumes were primarily comprised of older and less expensive models, leading to the company’s first quarter of year-on-year decline and landing in the number 5 position worldwide. Still, this was enough for Research In Motion to maintain a presence among the top five vendors worldwide, with a sizable margin ahead of the remaining vendors.

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