Strong demand for smartphones
The worldwide mobile phone market grew 1.9% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2012, as strong holiday smartphone sales raised shipments of these devices to levels nearly equal to those of feature phones.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 482.5 million mobile phones in 4Q12 compared to 473.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. For the full year, the global market for mobile phones grew 1.2% on shipments of more than 1.7 billion units.
In the worldwide smartphone market, vendors shipped 219.4 million units in 4Q12, which represents 45.5% of all mobile phone shipments, the highest percentage ever. The 36.4% year-over-year growth was slightly below IDC's forecast of 39.5% for the quarter. On an annual basis, 712.6 million smartphones were shipped globally in 2012, which was 44.1% more than in 2011.
Senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker Kevin Restivo explained how the high-growth smartphone market, though dominated by Samsung and Apple, still presents ample opportunities for challengers. Vendors with unique market advantages, such as lower-cost devices, can rapidly gain market share, especially in emerging markets. A good example is Huawei, which overtook LG as a Top 5 vendor in the overall mobile phone market and passed HTC to become a Top 5 smartphone vendor.
"The fact that Huawei and ZTE now find themselves among the Top 5 smartphone vendors marks a significant shift for the global market," noted Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team. "Both companies have grown volumes by focusing on the mass market, but in recent quarters they have turned their attention toward higher-end devices. In addition, both companies have pushed the envelope in terms of industrial design with larger displays and smaller form factors, as well as innovative applications and experiences."