updated 02:30 am EDT, Fri April 26, 2013
Chinese market growing rapidly; ZTE, Huawei displace Nokia, BlackBerry
The first calendar quarter of the year has seen a sea change in the cellphone industry: for the first time worldwide, smartphones made up the majority of phones sold. While the definition of "smartphone" varies -- particularly at lower price points -- the general definition is a device that can run an operating system giving it computer-like abilities beyond what a "feature phone" is capable of. According to industry analyst IDC, a total of 419 million smartphones were sold in the first three months of the year, 51.6 percent of which were smartphones.
The IDC survey also pointed out the growing dominance of the Chinese market as a factor across the entire smartphone industry, with two "local" makers -- ZTE and Huawei -- displacing Nokia and BlackBerry (the former accounting for significant percentage of feature phone sales) -- rising into the top five smartphone makers. Samsung and Apple, predictably, are the top and second-place smartphone sellers, with LG in third place.
Notably, Apple's worldwide percentage dropped significantly in Q1, down 4.5 percent to 17.3 percent of all smartphones. Samsung is said to have increased from 29 percent to 32.7 percent in the same period, however all the companies in the top 5 apart from Apple are reporting shipments, not actual end-user sales -- which can make a significant difference on the trustworthiness of the figures.
In the feature-phone segment, Samsung and Nokia dominate, with over 42 percent of that market between the two providers. Both companies, however, have acknowledged that the market for non-smartphones is shrinking as smartphones become more affordable and customers -- particularly in less-developed regions -- begin to rely on smartphones (and tablets) to replace traditional desktop and notebook computers. The move to smartphones is having a devastating impact on feature phone sales, but is also affecting the entire computer industry.