Emily Tan
Nov 7, 2011

Samsung overtakes Apple in 3rd quarter smartphone shipments

GLOBAL - Samsung has overtaken Apple as the world's leader in smartphone shipments, shipping over 23 million units between July and September this year, according to market research firm IDC.

Samsung's Galaxy S2 launch was supported by aggresive marketing
Samsung's Galaxy S2 launch was supported by aggresive marketing

Samsung now boasts a 20 per cent market share in the global tablet market. Apple, which shipped some 17 million units slipped to the second spot at 14.5 percent market share, having taken the top spot from Nokia in the previous quarter.

Overall, the global smartphone market grew 42.6 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2011, with 118.1 million units sold, compared with 82.8 million units in the same quarter last year. However, the 42.6 per cent growth is lower than IDC's forecast of 49.1 per cent for the quarter and lower than  66.7 percent growth recorded in the second quarter.

Samsung's rise to the top position is a direct result of its broad and deep product portfolio, said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile phone technology and trends team. "Ever since the first Galaxy device launched last year, the company has aggressively expanded and refreshed its selection to include the latest innovations and most popular features," he said.

Each Galaxy release, particularly the S2, was also supported by aggressive and innovative marketing campaigns, such as the iButterfly promotion in Hong Kong and the Space Balloon launch in Japan.

As in previous quarters, Samsung's Android-powered smartphones drove sales. In addition, the Korean manufacturer's new operating system, Bada-power, continued to gain traction in the market. It is also launching a phone using the Windows Phone operating system before the end of this year, adding further to the mix.

However, Samsung's position may still not last past the fourth quarter, given Apple's recent launch of the iPhone 4S and lower pricing of its older models, observed Llamas.

Furthermore, analysts have attributed slower sales of the iPhone 4 as consumers waited for the October launch of the iPhone 4S to buy a new iPhone. "Even relying on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3Gs, demand for the iPhone remained strong enough for Apple to realise double-digit growth year on year. With the iPhone 4S and repricing, Apple is poised to challenge Samsung," noted IDC's report.

Nokia, maintained its third place position close on the heels of Apple with 14.2 percent market share having sold 16.8 million units during the third quarter. Although its shipments declined almost 40 per cent year-on-year from the same period last year, IDC analysts are positive about the launch of its Windows Phone smartphones. 

"The launch marks the beginning of a new era for the company which point to larger volumes in the quarters to come," commented Llamas.

Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, which has been gaining momentum all year, has moved up a spot, shipping almost 13 million units at a 10.8 percent market share in the third quarter. HTC made several strategic acquisitions during the period, including Dashwire for cloud-based sync, Zoodles for kid-oriented applications, and a stake in audio company Beats. It has also launched devices targeted at specific segments including multimedia-optimised Sensation, female-oriented Rhyme, and the entry-level Explorer. Analysts expect it to ship similar volumes in the final quarter.

Meanwhile, Research In Motion (RIM) posted its first year-on-year decline this quarter, dropping to fifth position in worldwide smartphone shipments. Although RIM started shipping its new BB OS7 smartphones in the third quarter, its volumes were primarily comprised of older and less expensive models. Nevertheless its almost 12 million unit shipments gives it a sizeable margin ahead of remaining vendors.

The top five vendors however will have a struggle on their hands to maintain leadership as the market's high growth provides opportunities for multiple companies to grow, said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. 

"Competitors will release smartphones with components, such as 3D displays, dual-core processors, and enhanced audio capabilities, that will help them drive higher shipment volumes and potentially leapfrog competitors," said Restivo.

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