Samsung, Apple Widen Lead In Smartphone Race

Samsung and Apple both gained ground on their smartphone competitors, while Chinese firm ZTE jumped into the top five vendors.
Apple and Samsung together shipped nearly half the world's smartphones during the second quarter of 2012, according to IDC. Smartphone vendors together shipped a whopping 153.9 million smartphones during the quarter, up a massive 42% compared to the year-ago quarter. The cell phone industry as a whole shipped 406 million handsets during the same time period.

Combined sales of Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy class and other smartphones totaled more than 76 million.

"Samsung and Apple have quickly become the global smartphone heavyweights, though both employ somewhat different approaches to the market," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC. "Samsung employs a 'shotgun' strategy wherein many models are created that cover a wide range of market segments. Apple, in contrast, offers a small number of high-profile models. While both companies have expanded their geographic presence in pursuit of market share, the two companies will inevitably come into greater conflict as both try to generate additional gains."

[ The outcome of the upcoming Apple-Samsung trial could greatly affect the future of the smartphone market. Read more at Apple Vs. Samsung Trial: What's At Stake. ]

I'll say. The two smartphone giants are prepared to go head-to-head in court next week, with the smartphone heavyweight crown in the offing.

There's more to the smartphone market than just Apple and Samsung, however, and there were some interesting changes during the second quarter of the year.

Notably, ZTE made its first appearance in the top five smartphone makers. It sold 8 million devices, mostly low-end models in its home market of China, and grabbed 5.2% of the world's share of smartphones. Its other home-country competitor, Huawei, has yet to make a showing in global rankings. ZTE's year-over-year change blew everyone else away. It grew 300% compared to the second quarter of 2011.

Looking at each of the top five smartphone makers, Samsung shipped about 51 million devices and grabbed 32.6% of the global smartphone market. Apple shipped 26 million devices, giving it 16.9% of the market. Nokia shipped 10.2 million smartphones, earning 6.6%; HTC shipped 8.8 million for 5.7%; and ZTE shipped 8 million devices and landed 5.2% of the market.

Samsung's year-over-year change was very impressive. It grew 172% compared to the second quarter of 2011. Apple's growth was more reserved, at 27% compared to 2011. Nokia's sales dropped 39%, and HTC's dropped 24%.

IDC says Eurozone worries will mute growth in the smartphone sector for the remainder of the year, though the market will still make positive gains by the end of the year.

"With half of 2012 behind us, vendors are looking ahead to 2013 and how key markets--particularly Europe and emerging markets--will play out," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC. "Despite recent maneuvers to shore up several countries within the Eurozone, the effectiveness of these efforts remains to be seen. Meanwhile, emerging markets will continue to be strong contributors due to their sheer size and growth trajectory, but how much they can offset potential declines in other countries is unclear."

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