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Global Smartphone Market Is on Fire

Global Smartphone Market Is on Fire

Samsung and Apple are jockeying for the top spot, while Nokia and RIM are trying to stay alive. One thing is clear, though -- pretty much everyone now wants a smartphone. "Smartphone devices are now on par with feature phones, and low-priced offerings mean even budget-minded consumers can have one," said James Brehm, senior strategist at Compass Intelligence.

By Erika Morphy
05/02/12 10:51 AM PT

Samsung is top dog in the global smartphone market. No, wait -- it's Apple that is No. 1. Well, either way, Apple is making more money than Samsung.

A recent flurry of reports analyzing the state of the mobile market has provoked some head-spinning. Some issues, such as the global competition between Samsung and Apple, are being hotly disputed by dueling consulting firms.

About other trends, though, there is no doubt whatsoever.

Ridiculous Growth

"Here is what we know is true -- smartphone growth has gotten simply ridiculous," James Brehm, senior strategist and consultant with Compass Intelligence, told the E-Commerce Times. "Smartphone devices are now on par with feature phones, and low-priced offerings mean even budget-minded consumers can have one."

More than 106 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in March, according to ComScore's MobiLens -- up 9 percent versus December.

The worldwide smartphone market grew 42.5 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2012, noted IDC in its recently released Mobile Phone Tracker report on the mobile market.

Vendors shipped 144.9 million smartphones for that time period, compared to 101.7 million units the first quarter of 2011, IDC said. To put these numbers in perspective: the 42.5 percent year-over-year growth was one percent higher than IDC's forecast of 41.5 percent for the quarter, and lower than the 57.4 percent growth that posted in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Changing Places

Samsung overtook Apple for the smartphone manufacturer leadership position, IDC also said, while Nokia, which has been the global market leader in total mobile phone shipments since 2004, has slipped in popularity. Nokia's Symbian phone shipments have clearly been on the decline, especially as demand has dropped in China.

Also undisputed is Samsung's growth, fueled by Android's popularity. It ranked as the top smartphone platform for the quarter, with 51 percent market share (up 3.7 percentage points), reported comScore, while Apple's share of the smartphone market increased 1.1 percentage points to 30.7 percent. RIM ranked third with 12.3 percent share, followed by Microsoft (3.9 percent) and Symbian (1.4 percent).

What is contested, though, is Samsung's leadership spot, which IDC believes was secured by its continued expansion of its Galaxy portfolio. Samsung has been proclaimed the new smartphone king by Strategy Analytics as well.

However, Apple is still the dominant provider, according to IHS iSuppli.

Few Specifics

The problem is that Samsung doesn't release details about its smartphone versus feature phone shipments, Rob Walch, host of Today in iOS, told the E-Commerce Times.

"It is certainly clear Samsung is selling a heck of a lot of smartphones, many of which are at low prices," he said. "But beyond that, crunching the numbers for an accurate picture of market share is difficult."

Apple is Still the Top Revenue Earner

What is clear is that Apple is, hands down, bringing in more revenue than Samsung, Walch added.

That is one of the highlights in a recent report from Juniper Research, which cites Samsung as the biggest smartphone maker in terms of global shipments for Q1 with 46.9 million smartphones shipped compared to Apple's 35.1 million.

Apple's mobile revenues for the quarter though, clocked in at US$29.3 billion. Samsung's mobile revenues, which included its feature phones, came to $17 billion. Apple's margins are far higher than Samsung's too, Walch said -- roughly 47 percent compared to Samsung's 13 percent.


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