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Gartner reports global mobile sales fell 1.7 per cent in 2012

To adapt the common parlance of our economically straitened times, we’re in a “double-dip” mobile phone recession – annual sales have fallen for the second time in three years. According to new research from Gartner, released this morning, global mobile phones sales declined by 1.7 per cent year-on-year, from 1.78bn to 1.75bn. The last time Gartner reported a fall was in 2009.

Going straight to the list of winners and losers, Samsung has taken the crown from a deposed Nokia. In 2011, it was Nokia that was the number one mobile phone vendor with 422m sales for a 23.8 per cent market share, and Samsung in second place with 315m sales and a 17.7 per cent share. The tables turned in 2012, and it is now Samsung in the number one spot with 384m sales and a 22.0 per cent market share, followed by Nokia with 333m sales and a 19.1 per cent share.

In 2012, as in 2011, Apple occupied the third place, this time with 130m sales and a 7.5 per cent market share, up from the previous year when it had 89m sales and a 5.0 per cent share.

In fourth place in 2012 was ZTE, with 67m sales and 3.9 per cent share, followed by LG in fifth with 58m and 3.3 per cent. These rankings were reversed in 2011, when LG was fourth with 86m and 4.9 per cent, followed by ZTE with 56m and 3.2 per cent.

For the rest of the top ten in 2012, Huawei came sixth with 47m, TCL (makers of Alcatel branded phones) seventh with 37m, RIM eighth with 34m, Motorola ninth with 33m, and HTC tenth with 32m.

The good news is that smartphone sales continue to perform well. Gartner reports that Q4 saw record global sales of 208m units, up 38.3 per cent from the same period last year. Samsung was in the top spot, followed by Apple, and together they accounted for 52 per cent of the market, up from 46.4 per cent in the year ago period. Samsung sold 64.5m and Apple 43.5m

For the full year, Samsung had global smartphone sales of 206m – 53.5 per cent of its total mobile sales. Apple sold 130m smartphones in the year – as all of its mobile products fall into this category. Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, explained that the success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products:

“Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand. There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the number three spot in global smartphone sales.”

It was actually Huawei that claimed third spot in Q4, for the first time in its history, selling 27m smartphones in the period, up 73.8 per cent from Q4 2011. Nokia reached 39.3m smartphone sales worldwide in 2012, down 53.6 per cent from the previous year.

Despite the fall in 2012, Gartner predicts that overall mobile phone sales to end users are estimated to reach 1.9bn units in 2013, with sales of smartphone to end users close to 1bn units. Says Anshul Gupta:

“2013 will be the year of the rise of the third ecosystem as the battle between the new BlackBerry10 and Widows Phone intensifies. As carriers and vendors feel the pressure of the strong Android’s growth, alternative operating systems such as Tizen, Firefox, Ubuntu and Jolla will try and carve out an opportunity by positioning themselves as profitable alternatives.”

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