Global sales of mobile phones down 1.7pc in 2012 – Gartner

13 Feb 2013

Mobile phone sales dipped in 2012, though smartphone sales increased by almost 40pc in the fourth quarter – and more than half of this market is split between Apple and Samsung, the latest figures from Gartner reveal.

About 1.75bn mobile phones were sold worldwide in 2012, a drop of 1.7pc from 2011’s sales figures. “The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year.”

Demand for feature phones remained weak, declining 19.3pc year-on-year in Q4 2012 to 264.4m units. This downward trend is expected to continue in 2013, whereas smartphone sales are predicted to reach 1bn, contributing to a total of 1.9bn mobile phones sold in 2013.

Clearly, smartphones are the key driver of mobile phone sales, having seen a record number of units shipped in Q4 2012 (207.7m units to be exact, marking a 38.3pc increase on the same period in 2011).

Source: Gartner

Source: Gartner

A two-horse race at the top

Between them, Apple and Samsung claimed 52pc of worldwide smartphone sales in Q4 2012, up from 46.4 pc in the previous quarter. Samsung remained in pole position for both smartphone and overall mobile phone sales with a total of 64.5m units shipped in the last quarter, up a massive 85.3pc from the same period in 2011. Throughout 2012, the South Korean manufacturer shipped a total of 384.6m handsets, 53.5pc of which were smartphones.

Limited to just the smartphone market, Apple’s total handset sales reached 130m in 2012. Gartner also claims that iPhone demand in Q4 favoured the iPhone 4 and 4S models over its flagship iPhone 5, which shows that it may be unwise for Apple to ignore the appeal of lower-cost products.

While Apple is the world’s No 2 smartphone vendor, Nokia takes second place for overall mobile phone shipments. Sales in Q4 2012 were boosted by its Asha and Windows Phone 8 Lumia devices, however, this was not enough to stop the Finnish phone maker from dropping to 18pc market share – the lowest ever claimed by the one-time No 1.

The Android galaxy

In terms of operating systems, Android has a majority share, with more than 50pc of the market and, globally, Samsung has 42.5pc of the Android market in its pocket, with the second in line taking just 6pc.

Windows Phone smartphone sales were up 124.2pc year-on-year, making Microsoft’s OS a strong contender for the No 3 spot ahead of a declining-in-popularity BlackBerry. Gartner also believes that 2013 will see increased competition from the likes of Tizen, Firefox, Ubuntu and Jolla.

Source: Gartner

Source: Gartner

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.