Consider these four facts that rose above the noise.
1. It's Apple, Samsung Versus Everyone Else: Globally, Apple sold 37 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 93 million for the entire year. Samsung sold 36.5 million smartphones during the fourth quarter and 97.4 million for the entire year. Nokia ranks a distant third, with 19 million smartphones sold in the fourth quarter and 77.3 million sold for the year.
In terms of percentages, Apple accounted for 23.9% of global smartphones sales during the fourth quarter, and 19% for the year. Samsung accounted for 23.5% of all smartphone sales during the fourth quarter and 19.9% for the year. RIM, Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson, and others are battling for Apple and Samsung's scraps.
Same goes for tablets. Considering the poor numbers from RIM and Motorola (each sold about 1 million tablets in 2011), Apple and Samsung own the tablet market for now.
[ Apple's tablet has come a long way in two short years. Take a look back and a peek ahead in Apple iPad: Happy 2nd Birthday. ]
2. Android And iOS Will Lead For Foreseeable Future: Together, Android and iOS own approximately 76.3% of the U.S. smartphone market. Android has 46.3% of the market, while iOS has about 30%. RIM's BlackBerry platform is third with about 15%. The remaining 10% is owned by Windows Mobile, PalmOS, webOS, and Windows Phone.
RIM's current BlackBerry platform will continue to see losses in overall marketshare as the company prepares to release BlackBerry 10 and new smartphones later this year. RIM will be starting with zero presence with the new platform when it launches. Will it catch on? Will it surpass Windows Phone? Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks Microsoft's Windows Phone--and not RIM's BB10--will take the third spot in the market. Even if it does, Android and iOS will only continue to cement their lead.
3. Android Tablets Gaining In Popularity: Apple notched a massive 15.4 million iPad 2 sales during the fourth quarter of the year. While cheapo tablets weren't much in the way of competition, it appears as though Android's presence in the tablet market is eroding Apple's lead, bit-by-bit.
New data released this week by Strategy Analytics shows that the iPad owns 57.6% of the global tablet market. That's down markedly from the previous year's 69%. Where did Apple's lead go? Straight to Android. Android's share of the global smartphone market swelled from 29% is 2010 to 39.1% in 2011. If Android tablets make similar gains in 2012, Apple and Google will be neck-and-neck in the tablet space before we know it.
4. Still Plenty Of Room For Growth: AT&T says 56.8% of its 69.3 million postpaid subscribers have smartphones, up from 42.7% a year earlier and 32.8% two years ago. Smartphones represented more than 80% of AT&T's postpaid device sales for the quarter. Verizon's smartphone penetration is 44.5% of its postpaid customers. That's up from 39% in the third quarter of 2011, and closing in quickly on the 50% mark. (Sprint and T-Mobile haven't shared their latest numbers yet, but the percentages are probably on par with their larger competitors.
These numbers tell us that there are tens of millions of U.S. consumers using feature phones and not smartphones. That means smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices have tons of room to grow--and they will. Data plans are cheaper now than they were five years ago and offer more flexibility. Smartphones no longer cost $500 at the register. With high-profile devices launching on a near-weekly basis, the nationwide penetration of smartphones will continue to swell until the majority of Americans are smartphoniacs.