Samsung has extended its lead over Nokia and Apple as the world's leading manufacturer, although overall phone sales are down 2.3% as consumers hold off for forthcoming devices like the iPhone 5.
According to research by Gartner for the second quarter of this year, worldwide sales of handsets hit 419 million units, down 2.3% on the same time last year. However, smartphones continued their stellar growth, up 42.7% on 2011. They now account for 36.7% of total sales.
Gartner principal research analyst Anshul Gupta said: 'Demand slowed further in the second quarter of 2012. The challenging economic environment and users postponing upgrades to take advantage of high profile device launches and promotions available later in the year slowed demand across markets. Demand of feature phones continued to decline, significantly weakening the overall mobile phone market.
'High profile smartphone launches from key manufacturers such as the anticipated Apple iPhone 5, along with Chinese manufacturers pushing 3G and preparing for major device launches in the second half of 2012, will drive the smartphone market upward. However, feature phones will continue to see pressure.'
Samsung was the key performer during the period, with sales up 29.5% year on year to 90.4 million units. This growth was driven by its Galaxy portfolio and smartphones now account for 50.4% of Samsung's total handset sales. Gartner singled out the Samsung Galaxy S III as a key device and said sales would have been stronger if not for product shortages.
Anticipation for the forthcoming iPhone 5, expected to launch next month, hit Apple sales. Handset sales were down 12.6% on the previous quarter, although they were 47.4% up on 2011 to 28.9 million. Gartner predicted that Apple could experience a weak third quarter but said the iPhone launch would boost handset sales.
Gupta said: 'Samsung and Apple continued to dominate the smartphone market, together taking about half the market share, and widening the gap to other manufacturers. No other smartphone vendors had share close to 10%. In the race to be the top smartphone manufacturer in 2012, Samsung has consistently increased its lead over Apple, and its open OS market share increased to one and a half times that of Apple in the second quarter of 2012.'
Meanwhile, Nokia's struggles continued, with the number two handset manufacturer buffeted by white label maufacturers and new entrants. Sales were down 14.8% to 83.4 million for the quarter as Gartner said Nokia continued to present its Lumia devices as a viable alternative to Android.
Gupta said: 'Declining smartphone sales are worsening Nokia's overall position, as it had already lost the number one position to Samsung in the previous quarter and is facing reduced profitability due to continuous declining sales of premimum smartphones.'
Among the heaviest losers in the top 10 were LG, which saw its sales plummet 41.3% to 14.3 million, and BlackBerry manufacturer RIM, whose sales also fell 36.8% year on year to eight million. ZTE was one of the highest climbers, with sales up 37.2% year on year to 17.9 million.
Samsung's performance helped Android extend its OS lead dramatically, with 98.5 million units shifted during the second quarter, up 110.6% on 2011. Apple's iOS share was up marginally (3.3%) as consumers wait for the new iPhone. Nokia's move away from Symbian to Windows Phone hit its former OS, with its sales down 62%.
Gartner's research backed a recent report from IDC, which said Samsung and Apple are surging ahead of rivals.
Editor: Graeme Neill