Worldwide sales of mobile phones to end users reached 419.1 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 2 per cent decline from the first quarter of 2011, according to Gartner, Inc. This is the first time since the second quarter of 2009 that the market exhibited a decline. The slow down in the first quarter was attributed to a low demand in Asia Pacific in view of generally less exciting product launches.
Samsung became the world’s top mobile handset vendor during the quarter, displacing Nokia which had held the No. 1 spot since 1998. Samsung took back the world’s No. 1 smartphone position from Apple, selling 38 million smartphones worldwide. In addition, Samsung’s Android-based smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2012 represented more than 40 percent of Android-based smartphone sales worldwide; no other vendors achieved more than a 10 percent share of the market.
Sales of smartphones continued to drive mobile device market growth, reaching 144.4 million units in the first quarter of 2012, up 44.7 percent year-over-year. This quarter also saw the top two smartphone vendors, Apple and Samsung, raising their combined share to 49.3 percent, up from 29.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011, and widening their lead over Nokia – which saw its smartphone market share drop to 9.2 percent. Nokia’s mobile handset sales reached 83.2 million units, a 22.7 percent decrease from the first quarter of 2011.
Android accounted for more than half of all smartphone sales (56.1 percent) in the first quarter of 2012. A very strong commoditization trend is setting in on the smartphone segment especially the ones based on Android OS. At the high end, hardware features coupled with applications and services are helping differentiation, but this is restricted to major players with intellectual property assets. However, in the mid to low-end segment, price is increasingly becoming the sole differentiator. This will only worsen with the entry of new players and the dominance of Chinese manufacturers, leading to increased competition, low profitability and scattered market share
The mobile phone market shares over the last 13 quarters are plotted above. Interestingly, even while the market has grown in the last 13 quarters by 55% from 269.1 mln units in Q1 2009 to the present volumes, what explains Nokia’s loss in not an other incumbent but the rise of the “Others” category. One would associate Micromax, Karbonn, Spice, Lava and other local white labelled brands in this space. The irony is back in 2008, when Nokia was at its zenith, this threat was widely rubished by most of the high ups in Nokia as a passing fad.