A record quarter for smartphones failed to stop the phone market from declining for the first time in three years, new research has revealed.
A new report from Gartner said 2012 mobile phone sales were 1.75bn, down 1.7% on the previous year. Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, said: 'The last time the worldwide phone market declined was in 2009. Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year.' The slowdown came in spite of record smartphone sales of 207.7m units in the fourth quarter, up 38.3% on 2011.
Apple and Samsung continued to carve up the smartphone market, accounting for 52% of the sector, up from 46.4% in 2011. Apple was boosted more by sales of the cheaper iPhone 4 and 4S, rather than the iPhone 5, which launched during the quarter. It shipped 43.3 million devices during the quarter, up 22.6% on the previous year.
However, Samsung's dominance in the smartphone market continued, with sales up 85.3% to 64.5 million. Gupta said: 'With Samsung commanding over 42.5 per cent of the Android market globally, and the next vendor at just six per cent share, the Android brand is being overshadowed by Samsung's brand with the Galaxy name nearly a synonym for Android phones in consumer's mind share.'
Huawei leapt into third place for the first time, bolstered by strong traction in international markets. Gartner predicted that continuing its growth will depend on Huawei's success in international markets and move toward the top-tier. It sold 27.2 million smartphones during the quarter, up 73.8% on 2011.
The launch of Nokia's Windows Phone 8 devices, as well as the strong global performance of its Asha handsets, did not stop the Finnish manufacturer from having a market share of 18.0%, its lowest ever amount.
Android continued its stranglehold on the smartphone market, accounting for 69.7% of all smartphones during Q4. Gupta said: '2013 will be the year of the rise of the third ecosystem as the battle between the new BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone intensifies. 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.'
Author: Graeme Neill