Smartphone shipments hit an all-time high in the fourth quarter of last year thanks to demand for the Apple iPhone 4S and a wide range of devices.
New research from IDC into the smartphone sector showed 157.8 million units were shipped in the fourth quarter last year, up 54.7% on the 102 million units shipped in 2010. The growth outstripped IDC's forecast of 40% and was higher than the 49.2% growth in the third quarter of last year. By the end of the fourth quarter, IDC claimed one in every three phones shipped was a smartphone.
Apple's Q4 market share was 23.5%, up 128.4% on 2010. IDC said: '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, the delay in product launch from Q3 to Q4, and the addition of multiple mobile operators helped drive volumes higher.'
Samsung was second, with a market share of 22.8%, up 275% on the previous year. IDC said a series of milestones during the quarter, including it breaking the 30 million units mark for the first time, helped it finish the year as the overall smartphone market leader.
In third was Nokia, which posted the largest year on year decrease in market share, down 30.6% to 12.4%. Nevertheless, IDC said its strategy took a step forward during Q4 with the launch of its Lumia 710 and 800 devices. IDC added: 'At the same time, demand for its Symbian-powered smartphones appears to have waned, and smaller volumes are expected in 2012.'
Fourth placed Research in Motion (RIM) had a mixed quarter, with market share down 11.0% to 8.2%. IDC said: 'Its new BlackBerry 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 BlackBerry 10-powered smartphones will not arrive to market until late 2012.'
HTC sat fifth with a share of 6.5%, up 17.2% on the previous year. The researchers said the releases of the Windows Phone-enabled Titan and Radar models as well as numerous Android devices was in step with consumer and operator demand. However, it added: 'Despite the many high-profile launches during the quarter.. the Taiwanese vendor still shipped lower volumes compared to the previous quarter.'
Across the full year, smartphone shipments were 491.4 million, up 61.3% on 2010. While this marked a slowdown in growth compared to 2009/10, IDC said it expects double-digit growth in the sector for the forseeable future.
Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program said: 'So-called 'hero' devices, such as Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Apple's iPhone 4S, garner the bulk of the attention heaped on the device type. But a growing number of sub-$250 device offerings, based on the Android operating system, have allowed Google's hardware partners to grow smartphone volumes and expand the market concurrently.'