updated 10:55 pm EST, Thu January 27, 2011
IDC: iPhone 5th, ZTE up to 4th in share
Apple has faced an unusual setback in its cellphone market share grab as IDC reported that it had been held off by ZTE. The Chinese company grew the exact same amount as its iPhone-making rival and claimed the fourth place spot in the fall with 4.2 percent share, keeping Apple at exactly four percent. The new rivalry was paralleled in the results for all of 2010, where ZTE was again the fourth largest with 3.7 percent where Apple managed 3.4 percent.
The unusual success was attributed to ZTE's decision to push low-cost Android phones and other budget phones, particularly in its native country and in developing areas like Africa and China. Phones such as the Blade (also known as the Orange San Francisco) and Racer gave it a footprint not just in areas where cost is a major factor but also in Europe and North America. Apple had strong success with the iPhone 4 but admitted that it had been limited by supply and hinted it might have beaten ZTE otherwise.
The CDMA iPhone is predicted to improve Apple's stance by giving it sales at Verizon and other carriers that could tip the balance but have been off-limits until now.
Researchers noted that the position of the top three phone makers was, for the first time, consistently negative. Nokia's rapid crash in estimated share was validated as it sank to 30.8 percent. Normally fast-moving Samsung, however, also saw a rare drop in share and edged down just slightly to 20.1 percent. LG's initial sluggishness in developing competitive smartphones was still felt in its overall phone share as it tumbled from 10 percent a year ago to 7.6 percent today.
Samsung's relatively small loss in share was helped by the Galaxy S, whose presence in much of the developed world gave it a significant reach. Nokia's average smartphone selling price dropped 16 percent over the period and may have directly contributed to the loss as customers steered away from the N8, C6 and other new Nokia phones and towards either an iPhone or Android, both of which were popular in Nokia's once secure European home base.