Worldwide shipments of smartphones were up 42.5% during the first quarter of 2012 compared to first quarter of 2011, but lagged the growth rates seen in the fourth quarter of 2011. Handset vendors shipped 144.9 million smartphones in the January-March period, which was up compared to 101.7 million units shipped in the year-ago period. Samsung and Apple shipped the bulk of these smartphones.
The latest data from IDC shows that Samsung and Apple hold the lion's share of the shipments and the profits with respect to smartphones.
Samsung shipped 42.2 million smartphones, says IDC, giving it 29.1% of the smartphone market worldwide. Apple ranked second with 35 million smartphones shipped and 24.2% of the worldwide smartphone market. Nokia, RIM, and HTC round out the top five, with shipments of 11.9 million, 9.7 million, and 6.9 million, respectively.
"The race between Apple and Samsung remained tight during the quarter, even as both companies posted growth in key areas," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "Apple launched its popular iPhone 4S in additional key markets, most notably in China, and Samsung experienced continued success from its Galaxy Note smartphone/tablet and other Galaxy smartphones. With other companies in the midst of major strategic transitions, the contest between Apple and Samsung will bear close observation as hotly-anticipated new models are launched."
Apple and Samsung each recently recorded strong earnings, with profits a-plenty. Meanwhile, companies such as RIM, Nokia, LG and others have reported losses in recent quarters. IDC warns that RIM, Nokia, and HTC, in particular, are in transitional periods that will likely see things get worse before they get better. In other words, expect the balance to remain tipped in Samsung and Apple's favor for the foreseeable future.
Nokia is swapping mobile platforms from Symbian to Windows Phone; RIM is transitioning from its legacy BlackBerry platform to a new one to be called BlackBerry 10, and HTC is banking on new hardware designs to lure back buyers. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note, Galaxy S III, iPhone 4S, and probably iPhone 5 will be the big smartphone winners for the year.
But what about the rest of the bunch?
IDC notes that 27% of the first quarter's smartphone sales are attributable to "other" at 39.1 million. (I wish IDC provided more clarity in where the rest of the field ranks in this significant swath of the market. For example, which handset maker falls after HTC? Is it Motorola, LG, ZTE, Huawei?)
The rest of the year looks bright and sunny for Apple and Samsung, but the forecast is cloudy for the rest of the field.