updated 02:00 am EST, Fri February 8, 2013
Android dips in share in Q4, iOS gains but still in second
Following up on yesterday's breakout of US smartphone market numbers that saw Apple take the leading vendor role while the Android platform dipped slightly, research firm Canalys has published a report on the worldwide market that again shows the combined versions of Google's Android operating system losing some ground -- though still strongly dominant in the worldwide smartphone market. For Q4 2012, Android slid from 74 percent to 69.2, while iOS rose from 15 percent to 22.1 percent.
In a year where overall mobile phone shipments were flat compared to the previous quarter, the smartphone market grew 37 percent -- mostly on the back of Apple's recent iPhone 5. Apple credits the arrival of the latest iPhone in China with some of that success, and indeed three Chinese phone makers -- Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo -- gained entry to the top five smartphone manufacturers list for the first time as the smartphone market in China grew dramatically over 2012.
Nevertheless, Apple and Samsung again dominated the worldwide market in shipments, with Samsung selling 29 percent of all smartphones in Q4 compared to Apple's 22.1 percent. By platform, Android phones of all stripes accounted for 69.2 percent of Q4 shipments. BlackBerry took third place by vendor with 7.6 million phones shipped, followed by Microsoft with 5.1 million worldwide and Nokia with 3.2 million.
As the fourth quarter includes the holiday buying season, sales for all vendors rose precipitously compared to the previous quarter. Samsung and Apple both saw a 78 percent growth in shipments over the previous quarter, with the three Chinese makers seeing growth in the triple digits, including Lenovo's 216 percent quarterly sales jump.
Overall yearly growth, however, again pointed out the difficulty of shifting Apple or Samsung from the dominant spots: by vendor, BlackBerry was in third place, explained a Canalys analyst, "but [second-place] Apple shipped 101 million more handsets [than they did] ... first-placed Samsung shipped 74 million more than Apple. The gaps are colossal."
Related to the staggering figures of smartphone shipments is the fact that smartphones now make up 73 percent of the overall Chinese mobile phone market, the largest single mobile market in the world. The figure is nearly a doubling of the 40 percent of shipments smartphones took in China just a year ago.
Canalys says that Apple needs to secure a deal with China's largest carrier, China Mobile, and promote an iPhone model that is priced in accordance with the average smartphone price in China in order to grow its stake in the China market to its full potential.
As with the US smartphone market report, Canalys' numbers may be masking Apple's true position due to the fact that it relies on shipment numbers rather than sell-through figures. Apple's publicly-released iPhone sales are actual sell-through results that don't include in-channel inventory, whereas few if any Android makers release anything but shipment numbers, which includes store inventory and can in some cases be quite deceptive. Though few would claim that Samsung isn't doing as well as it seems to be, the disparity could push Apple's figures somewhat higher if all makers used the "end-user sales" criteria.