Samsung takes top smartphone spot

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As Apple claims record iPhone sales, Samsung has reportedly leap-frogged the iPhone maker to become the world's leading smartphone manufacturer by volume.

While Samsung does not disclose its smartphone shipments, according to the Wall Street Journal, a source close to Samsung has revealed the company has shipped more than 20 million of the devices in the third quarter.

While the number of smartphones shipped does not necessarily translate into the number of handsets sold to consumers, if the 20 million unit figure is correct, then Samsung is the largest smartphone maker by volume.

Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker, reportedly shipped 16.8 million smartphones in the third quarter. Previous market leader Apple, on the other hand, reported this week that it sold 17.1 million iPhones in the same quarter.

Apple beat Nokia to become the world's largest smartphone manufacturer in the second quarter of this year. At the time, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics Alex Spektor said: “Global smartphone shipments grew a healthy 76% annually to reach a record 110 million units in Q2 2011.”

According to Spektor, Apple was already the largest smartphone vendor in terms of revenue and profits, but its recorded 18% market share also made it the largest vendor by volume. Apple was, however, just barely holding off a fast-rising Samsung which analysts predicted would eventually claim the top spot.

In the second quarter, Samsung achieved 520% year-on-year smartphone growth, moving form holding 5% of the market to 17.5%.

Apples vs Androids

Throughout this year, Samsung and Apple have been locked in multiple legal battles in various countries over alleged patent violations of their respective mobile technologies.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab has been banned in Germany and Australia. Samsung has also sought a ban on sales of the iPhone 4S in Japan, Australia, France and Italy.

Despite this, Samsung's mobile devices have proved to be extremely popular. Last month, the company issued a statement saying the company had sold 10 million Galaxy SII handsets into the channel worldwide since its April release.

The Galaxy SII is the updated version of Samsung's flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S. This week, Samsung and Google also unveiled the next-generation Galaxy handset, the Galaxy Nexus. The new device is the first to run the latest iteration of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.

MD of Strategy Worx, Steven Ambrose, says: “Based on sheer number of models available, and the ability to produce and distribute across the globe, Samsung will consolidate their position as the largest smartphone manufacturer.”

According to Ambrose, Samsung should maintain its position for the next few years.

“The iPhone 4S will, for the next quarter, be the best-selling smartphone, but will fall in overall numbers below the number Samsung can ship over the following quarters,” notes Ambrose.

Going mainstream

Forrester analyst for consumer product strategy, Thomas Husson, says: “Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Apple's iPhone and Android's growing traction (more than 550 000 Android devices are activated each day) many product strategists tend to assume that smartphones are a mass-market phenomenon.”

Husson, however, notes that in the context of the global population, smartphones are still niche.

“However, in the US and some European countries, smartphone penetration is racing past 25%; smartphones are going mainstream, albeit at a varying pace across the globe.”

He says manufacturers targeting the second wave of smartphone users must remember to provide basic features for users in emerging markets.

“While smartphone penetration will grow in most countries around the world, it is likely that a majority of consumers - even in the BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China - will continue to own a feature phone for the next two to three years.”


Despite the growth of Apple and Android smartphones in mature markets, according to Ambrose, BlackBerry will maintain its hold on the smartphone market in SA and elsewhere.

“Their ultimate response to the outage crisis was effective, and the BBM and mail services on offer are still far more cost-effective and efficient than anything the other smartphone manufacturers can offer currently.

“The cost of the handsets is also a major factor, with BlackBerry having some of the lowest cost devices with identical functionality to their most expensive devices, unlike other smartphone manufacturers, which have far greater functionality and design compromises from high-end to low-end devices,” says Ambrose.

New Nokia

As competition continues to heat up in the smartphone space, Nokia is expected to unveil the first of its Windows phones next week during Nokia World, in London.

Ambrose says: “At the high end, the release of Windows phones will galvanise Nokia's position in the market, and loyal Nokia fans will in all probability reward Nokia by buying the latest handsets in record numbers.”

“The lower end will remain a challenge for Nokia, however; they still manufacture and ship more devices in the low-end than any other single manufacturer,” he adds.

“Their newer devices and planned platforms for smart-style, low-cost handsets, will assist in keeping Nokia competitive.”

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