Huge Q1 Catapults Samsung ahead of Nokia as Top Handset Vendor

By Beecher Tuttle May 01, 2012

Nokia's long reign as the world's top mobile phone maker has finally, and predictably, come to an end. Samsung overtook the Finnish handset vendor for the top spot in the first quarter of 2012, driven mainly by dramatic gains in the smartphone market, according to a new report from IDC.

In addition to beating out Nokia in the overall mobile phone race, Samsung leveraged its record-setting Q1 to leapfrog Apple as the market's top smartphone vendor.

"The halcyon days of rapid growth in the smartphone market have been good to Samsung," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program. "Samsung has used its established relationships with carriers in a mix of economically diverse markets to gain share organically and at the expense of former high fliers such as Nokia."

Samsung shipped 93.8 million mobile phones in Q1, good for 23.5 percent of the market and a 35 percent premium on last year's first quarter sales. Nokia finished second with 82.7 million units shipped, but watched its market share drop an eye-opening 23.8 percent. Apple, ZTE and LG rounded out the top five.

Apple and Samsung flexed their muscles particularly in the burgeoning smartphone category, which is a more accurate barometer for future success in the overall market. Apple sold 35.1 million smartphones in Q1, booking a year-over-year gain of 88.7 percent, but still fell well behind Samsung, which shipped 42.4 million units, north of 30 million more than it sold in last year's first quarter.

The other top three smartphone makers – Nokia, Research in Motion (RIM) and HTC – each suffered significant year-over-year losses. An astounding 77 percent of all smartphones sold in Q1 came from Samsung and Apple.

Nokia will rely on its partnership with Microsoft to regain market share, while HTC will look to continue to expand its presence in the Asian Pacific markets to push Apple and Samsung. RIM, meanwhile, has little hope of reestablishing itself as a top smartphone maker. The company's limited success in the consumer market is now mirrored in the enterprise space, where companies are implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

The overall worldwide mobile phone market decreased 1.5 percent in the first quarter, due mainly to increased market saturation. 

Edited by Juliana Kenny

TechZone360 Contributor

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