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Strong Demand for Smartphones and Heated Vendor Competition Characterize the Worldwide Mobile Phone Market at the End of 2012, IDC Says

The worldwide mobile phone market grew 1.9% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2012 (4Q12), as strong holiday smartphone sales raised shipments of these devices to levels nearly equal to those of feature phones. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 482.5 million mobile phones in 4Q12 compared to 473.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. For the full year, the global market for mobile phones was essentially flat, declining 0.2% on shipments of more than 1.7 billion units.

In the worldwide smartphone market, vendors shipped 219.4 million units in 4Q12, which represents 45.5% of all mobile phone shipments, the highest percentage ever. The 36.4% year-over-year growth was slightly below IDC's forecast of 39.5% for the quarter. On an annual basis, 545.2 million smartphones were shipped globally in 2012, which was 10.1% more than in 2011.

"The high-growth smartphone market, though dominated by Samsung and Apple, still presents ample opportunities for challengers," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "Vendors with unique market advantages, such as lower-cost devices, can rapidly gain market share, especially in emerging markets. A good example is Huawei, which overtook LG as a Top 5 vendor in the overall mobile phone market and passed HTC to become a Top 5 smartphone vendor."

"The fact that Huawei and ZTE now find themselves among the Top 5 smartphone vendors marks a significant shift for the global market," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "Both companies have grown volumes by focusing on the mass market, but in recent quarters they have turned their attention toward higher-end devices. In addition, both companies have pushed the envelope in terms of industrial design with larger displays and smaller form factors, as well as innovative applications and experiences."

Smartphone Vendor Highlights

Samsung set a new record for the number of smartphones shipped in a single quarter and in a single year. Its broad and deep line-up of Android smartphones, particularly the Galaxy-branded Android family, combined with sustained demand for its mid-range and entry-level models to account for the remarkable shipment volumes. 2013 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the company as its Tizen smartphone strategy takes shape. Samsung will continue to rely on Android as its primary operating system, however, as the move to Tizen will not likely take place overnight.

Apple's record iPhone shipments in the quarter were driven by successes in Greater China, where shipments more than doubled, as well as the U.S., where 6.2 million iPhones were activated on Verizon alone. Interestingly, the company's success was due in large part to older models, in particular the iPhone 4, which Apple couldn't make enough of in the quarter relative to demand. Its sales success with the older model could portend success in higher-growth emerging markets where the company has performed well.

Huawei suddenly finds itself among the top three smartphone vendors in the world, a first for the company. The company had previously been a Top 10 vendor. To reach this milestone, Huawei has courted both the mass market with its simple and inexpensive smartphones and the high-end of the market with its Ascend-branded product line. Along the way, the company has demonstrated its innovative skills, having released the world's thinnest (6.68 mm) smartphone last year, the Ascend P1, and this year it announced the upcoming Ascend Mate, the first smartphone with a 6.1-inch display. At the same time, Huawei has brought its own software innovations, including Magic Touch, Guiding Wizard, Smart Reading, and Floating Windows.

Sony's strategy for becoming the worldwide leader in mobile entertainment combined with its growing portfolio of high-end smartphones drove its smartphone volumes higher throughout the year. This marks a significant improvement since Sony acquired Ericsson's stake in 2011 in the Sony Ericsson joint venture. Sony introduced its Xperia TL last quarter and recently announced the addition of the Xperia Z and the Xperia ZL, to be launched in 1Q13.

ZTE maintained its spot among the Top 5 smartphone vendors globally thanks to continued international diversification efforts last quarter. The vendor also shipped more smartphones than feature phones for the first time. ZTE has grown its smartphone sales of late thanks primarily to an uptick in lower-cost smartphone sales in many emerging markets. The company has traditionally relied on sales of phones to China, where the company is based. Notable progress has been made in developed markets too.

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2012 Q4 (Units in Millions)

  4Q12 Unit   4Q12 Market   4Q11 Unit  

4Q11 Market

Vendor Shipments Share Shipments Share Year Change
1. Samsung 63.7 29.0% 36.2 22.5% 76.0%
2. Apple 47.8 21.8% 37.0 23.0% 29.2%
3. Huawei 10.8 4.9% 5.7 3.5% 89.5%
4. Sony 9.8 4.5% 6.3 3.9% 55.6%
5. ZTE 9.5 4.3% 6.4 4.0% 48.4%
Others 77.8 35.5% 69.2 43.1% 12.4%
Total 219.4 100.0% 160.8 100.0% 36.4%

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 24, 2013

Note: Data are preliminary and subject to change. Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.

In addition to the table above, a graphic showing the relative market shares of the top 5 smartphone vendors over the previous five quarters is available at The chart is intended for public use in online news articles and social media. Instructions on how to embed this graphic can be found by viewing this press release on

Top Five Total Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2012 Q4 (Units in Millions)

  4Q12 Unit   4Q12 Market   4Q11 Unit   4Q11 Market   Year-over-
Vendor Shipments Share Shipments Share Year Change
1. Samsung 111.2 23.0% 99.0 20.9% 12.3%
2. Nokia 86.3 17.9% 113.4 24.0% -23.9%
3. Apple 47.8 9.9% 37.0 7.8% 29.2%
4. ZTE 17.6 3.6% 20.6 4.4% -14.6%
5. Huawei 15.8 3.3% 13.9 2.9% 13.7%
Others 203.8 42.3% 189.5 40.0% 7.5%
Total 482.5 100.0% 473.4 100.0% 1.9%

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 24, 2013

Note: Data are preliminary and subject to change. Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share Calendar Year 2012 (Units in Millions)

  FY 2012 Unit  

FY 2012

  FY 2011 Unit  

FY 2011

  Year over
Vendor Shipments Share Shipments Share Year Change
1. Samsung 215.8 39.6% 94.2 19.0% 129.1%
2. Apple 136.8 25.1% 93.1 18.8% 46.9%
3. Nokia 35.1 6.4% 77.3 15.6% -54.6%
4. HTC 32.6 6.0% 43.6 8.8% -25.2%
5. Research In Motion 32.5 6.0% 51.1 10.3% -36.4%
Others 92.4 16.9% 136.0 27.5% -32.1%
Total 545.2 100.0% 495.3 100.0% 10.1%

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 24, 2013

Note: Data are preliminary and subject to change. Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.

Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share Calendar Year 2012 (Units in Millions)

  FY 2012   FY 2012   FY 2011   FY 2011  
Shipment Market Shipment Market Year-over-
Vendor Volumes Share Volumes Share Year Change
1. Samsung 406.0 23.7% 330.9 19.3% 22.7%
2. Nokia 335.6 19.6% 416.9 24.3% -19.5%
3. Apple 136.8 8.0% 93.1 5.4% 46.9%
4. ZTE 65.0 3.8% 69.5 4.1% -6.5%
5. LG 55.9 3.3% 88.1 5.1% -36.5%
Others 713.3 41.6% 716.8 41.8% -0.5%
Total 1712.6 100.0% 1715.3 100.0% -0.2%

Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 24, 2013

Note: Data are preliminary and subject to change. Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.

About IDC Trackers

IDC Tracker products provide accurate and timely market size, vendor share, and forecasts for hundreds of technology markets from more than 100 countries around the globe. Using proprietary tools and research processes, IDC's Trackers are updated on a semiannual, quarterly, and monthly basis. Tracker results are delivered to clients in user-friendly excel deliverables and on-line query tools. The IDC Tracker Charts app allows users to view data charts from the most recent IDC Tracker products on their iPhone and iPad.

For more information about IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, please contact Kathy Nagamine at 650-350-6423 or [email protected].

About IDC

IDC is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community to make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,000 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries worldwide. For more than 48 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company. You can learn more about IDC by visiting

All product and company names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.

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