The smartphone market continued its boom last year, increasing 43 percent over the previous year and keeping Samsung and Apple as its clear leaders. Those are key takeaways from Strategy Analytics' latest report, released Thursday.
A record 700 million units were sold in 2012, a boost from the 490 million in 2011. Fourth-quarter sales reached 217 million, compared with sales of 157 million in Q4 2011. However, the report noted that, as North American and Western Europe have become mature markets, global shipment growth slowed to 43 percent from 64 percent in 2011.
Samsung took 30 percent of the market, shipping a record 213 million smartphones -- the largest number of units a smartphone vendor has shipped in a single year and further evidence of Samsung's increasingly dominant position as the No. 1 handset maker. The previous record was held by Nokia, which shipped 100 million units in 2010.
Same Apple Share
Samsung's most popular models reached hit status, including the Galaxy Y and Galaxy Note 2, the latter which is sometimes referred to as a "phablet" because of its 5.5-inch screen. Apple now has a 19 percent market share, the same percentage it held the year before, although its shipments increased 46 percent year-over-year and reached 135 million last year. While Apple remains strong in developed regions like North America, it has only what the report called "a limited presence" in emerging markets such as Africa.
By themselves, Samsung and Apple account for half of all global smartphone shipments last year, and the report said the companies are solidifying their hold. The research firm attributed their strengthening position to large marketing budgets, extensive distribution channels and a strong lineup of products.
Once-dominant Nokia stayed in the third position last year, but its market share is now at 5 percent from a previous high of 16 percent in 2011. In fact, its fourth-quarter share was only 3 percent, compared with 12.5 percent for the same quarter of 2011.
'Opportunities for Challengers'
The key question is whether Nokia and Microsoft can rebound to secure a position for the Windows Phone platform in the mobile market. Strategy Analytics said Nokia's product portfolio has improved recently with the launch of such models as the Lumia 920, but that it "still lacks a true hero model in its range that can be considered an Apple iPhone or Samsung S III killer."
Another report released this week from industry research firm IDC also showed a growing market, but those increases were not as impressive as in the Strategy Analytics report. IDC said 545 million smartphones had been shipped last year, representing a 10 percent growth over 2011.
IDC found that the overall mobile phone market, which includes smartphones, grew by only 1.2 percent compared with 2011. That research firm noted that, even though Samsung and Apple remain dominant, there are "ample opportunities for challengers" that present such advantages as lower-cost devices. It cited Huawei and ZTE, which landed in IDC's Top 5 smartphone vendors by focusing on the global mass market.