Apple’s iPhone concedes top spot to Samsung in 2012

Latest Gartner figures show that the iPhone fell behind the Korean manufacturer in worldwide sales last year

Gartner recently announced that worldwide mobile phone sales declined last year by 1.7 per cent, with sales totalling 1.75 billion units.

The decline, however, can not be attributed to smartphones, which racked up 207.7 million units in sales in the fourth quarter of 2012.

That is a jump of 38.3 per cent from the same period last year, with industry heavyweights Apple and Samsung raising their combined worldwide smartphone market share to 52 per cent from 46.4 per cent from a quarter earlier.

When it came to sales numbers in 2012, Gartner principal research analyst, Anshul Gupta, said Samsung took the pole position in both worldwide smartphone sales and overall mobile phone sales.

“In the fourth quarter of 2012, Samsung’s overall smartphone sales continued to accelerate totaling 64.5 million units, up 85.3 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2011,” he said.

Out of Samsung’s 384.6 million mobile phones sales in 2012, 53.5 per cent were smartphone sales, an increase of 28 per cent from 2011.

While Gupta admitted that Samsung’s resources and ability to build a broad market reach have enabled it grab the top spot, intensified competition from players such as Sony and Nokia will result in a tougher market in 2013.

“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 consumers’ mind share,” Gupta said.

Compared to Samsung’s figures, Apple sold 130 million smartphone sales worldwide in 2012, 43.5 million units of those in the fourth quarter.

While there was a 22.6 per cent increase in demand year-on-year, Gartner has found that consumers are eschewing the iPhone 5 for the less expensive iPhone 4 and 4S models.

“The arrival of the iPad Mini also created a dilemma for some users when deciding if to upgrade an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to an iPhone 5, or buy the new tablet,” Gupta said.

Reinventing Nokia

While the smartphone market is dominated by Apple and Samsung, Gartner found there is still life in the former market leader, Nokia.

Despite buzz for the latest Lumia Windows Phone 8 models and its Asha mobile phones in the fourth quarter of 2012, Nokia reached 39.3 million smartphone sales worldwide, a decrease of 53.6 per cent from 2011.

Despite the strong push by Nokia into the Windows Phone space, Gupta said it was not sufficient to stop the slide in the company’s market share, which reached 18 per cent, the lowest it has ever been.

“Aside from the continued focus on Lumia, Nokia needs to build on momentum around Asha in 2013 by adding devices and apps to further enhance its overall value proposition and, in doing so, moving up the price point slightly to achieve better margins breaching the gap left by Symbian,” he said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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