Samsung reported its fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 earnings Friday, and the news was good. In the fourth quarter, Samsung's business generated $52.45 billion in revenue and $8.27 billion in profits. Those numbers are up 10% over the third quarter of 2012 and nearly 90% over the year-ago quarter. Samsung ended 2012 with $188.15 billion in total revenue and $27.2 billion in earnings. Samsung's results exceeded expectations.
Sales of mobile devices, including cellphones, smartphones and tablets, generated about $25 billion, nearly half of Samsung's revenue for the quarter. By way of comparison, its LCD business generated about $4.58 billion in revenue and its semiconductor business generated about $7.16 billion. The company spent about $2.76 billion on research and development.
Samsung does not report sales figures for its smartphones, but Strategy Analytics says the company shipped 108 million mobile devices during the quarter -- 63 million of which were smartphones. The vast lion's share of those smartphones were Android devices, though there's a mix of Bada and Windows Phone, as well.
Strategy Analytics believes Samsung shipped a total of 396.5 million devices during the 2012 calendar year.
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Neil Shah, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, said, "Fueled by robust demand for its popular Galaxy models, Samsung was the star performer, shipping a record 396.5 million mobile phones worldwide and capturing 25% marketshare to solidify its first-place lead. However, Samsung's total volumes for the year fell just short of the 400-million threshold."
Apple, Samsung's chief competitor in the mobile phone space, sold 47.8 million iPhones during its most recent quarter. Strategy Analytics reported that Apple sold a total of 135.8 million devices for the 2012 calendar year, roughly a third as many as Samsung. Globally, Apple has 8.6% of the mobile phone market (including all devices, not just smartphones).
Linda Sui, analyst at Strategy Analytics, added, "Apple delivered 46% annual growth last year, which was bolstered by solid demand in North America and Asia. Apple's launch of the iPhone 5 in Q4 2012 was a success as volumes ramped up in dozens of countries worldwide, but negative media coverage of the model's new integrated maps service and supply chain challenges cast a slight shadow over the launch."
Looking ahead, Samsung sees some challenges ahead. It believes the overall growth rate of its mobile phone business will slow down. It expects demand for feature phones will decline significantly as more people in emerging markets switch to smartphones. As far as smartphones go, Samsung says it expects competition to be tough. Demand in emerging markets for low/mid-range models will be good, but high-end devices may struggle.