Global mobile sales decline for the first time in three years

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Overall sales fell to 1.75m units in 2012 but the fourth quarter of the year saw record smartphone sales of 207.7m units 

Global mobile phone sales to end users totalled 1.75 billion units last year, a 1.7 per cent decline from 2011. It was the first time the market has declined since 2009.

This is according to statistics by research form Gartner, which said that total sales in the final quarter of last year totalled 472.1 million, down from the 477.7 million sold in the same period in 2011.

Smartphone sales continued to drive overall mobile phone sales. The fourth quarter saw record smartphone sales of 207.7 million units, up 38 per cent from the previous year.

Demand for feature phones continued to be weak in 2012 and in Q4. Sales totaled 264.4 million units in Q4, down 19.3 per cent year-on-year.

Gartner said it expects feature phone sales to continue to fall this year. It is predicting smartphone sales to end users to be around one billion in 2013, with overall mobile sales estimated to reach 1.9 million units.

Gartner principal analyst Anshul Gupta said: “The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009. Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year.”

In Q4, Samsung and Apple combined raised their global smartphone market share to 52 per cent, up from 46.4 per cent from the previous quarter. Samsung ended the year in top position, in both smartphone sales and overall mobile sales.

Last year Samsung sold 384.6 million units, almost 70 million than what it sold in 2011. From this figure, 53.5 per cent were smartphones, up from 28 per cent in 2011. In Q4 2012, it sold 64.5 million smartphones, up 85.3 per cent from the same quarter a year earlier.

Apple’s sales were up by more than 40 million last year to 130.1 million. Sales reached 43.5 million units in Q4, up 22.6 per cent year-on-year.

Gartner said while the demand for iPhones in Q4 remained strong, consumers’ demand favoured the less expensive iPhone 4 and 4S. It added the arrival of the iPad Mini also created a dilema for some users when deciding if to upgrade an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to an iPhone 5, or buy the new tablet.

Nokia held onto second spot for overall sales last year. It sold 33.9 million units, but this was almost 90 million less than what it sold in the previous year. Last year it sold 39.3 million smartphones, down 53.6 per cent from 2011. This combined, Nokia’s market share fell to 18 per cent, the lowest it has ever been.

 

Gupta continued: There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the number three spot in global smartphone sales. The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strengths of their brands as much as their actual products. Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand.

“With Samsung commanding over 42.5 per cent of the Android market globally, and the next vendor at just six pr 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.”

In the smartphone operating system market, Android widened the gap with Apple’s iOS by taking a share of 69.7 per cent in Q4 2012, up from 51.3 per cent in Q4 2011. Sales of Android smartphones totalled 144.7 million units, almost double the number from the previous year. Apple iOS share fell 2.7 per cent last year to 20.9 per cent.

While Android grew 87.8 per cent in the final quarter, RIM declined 44.4 per cent in the same period, with its market share standing at 7.3 per cent. Microsoft’s share grew 1.2 per cent to end the year on 6.2 per cent.

Gupta concluded: “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 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.”

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