Gartner Confirms Ongoing Smartphone Sales Explosion

By Tony Rizzo November 14, 2012

In an anticlimactic report, Gartner announced today what we now already know to be the case – that overall sales of mobile phones declined a tiny bit, while sales of smartphones exploded. To what extent do Gartner’s numbers say is the case? Well, worldwide sales of all mobile phones to end users reached about 428 million units in Q3 2012, representing a 3.1 percent decline from Gartner’s Q3 2011 numbers. As reported in other research, smartphone sales have increased dramatically, and now represent 39.6 percent of total mobile phone sales.

Smartphone are clearly the new dominant force, with a sales increase of 46.9 percent above Gartner’s Q3 2011 numbers. Sales hit 169.2 million units in Q3 2012, and were, of course, dominated by Samsung and Apple. As was the case in other reports for Q3 2012, Nokia slipped from the number three position in Q2 2012 to number seven in smartphone sales for Q3 2012. RIM moved up to the number three spot by default as others fell out.  HTC comes in at number four in the Gartner study.

Mobile Device Sales by Vendor

As the chart below shows, Samsung’s mobile phones sales continued to run in the pole position, clearly outpacing the rest of the vendors evaluated by Gartner. Sales totaled almost 98 million units in Q3 2012, which is up 18.6 percent over Q3 2011, giving Samsung a huge leg up on Nokia, which also saw huge numbers here – only heading in the opposite direction from Samsung. Gartner notes that Samsung had strong demand for Galaxy smartphones at a variety of price points. This wide range of device sales helped to drive sales up against Apple in the smartphone end of the overall market. Samsung hit sales of 55 million smartphones in Q3 2012, leaving it with 32.5 percent of the global smartphone market. 

Nokia's decline continues unabated, with overall mobile phone sales declining 21.9 percent in Q3 2012. Gartner does note that Nokia’s 82.3 million units sold were in fact better than what Gartner’s earlier estimates for the quarter suggested. Smartphone sales were awful, with Nokia putting up particularly bad numbers with only 7.2 million smartphones sold. This performance sent Nokia plummeting down to the number seven worldwide position on Gartner’s list. It is greatly hoped by Nokia that its new Windows Phone 8 Lumia 920 and 820 will drive significant Q4 2012 holiday sales for the company, and there may very well be positive scenarios here – especially with the very attractive $99 pricing AT&T will launch the Lumia 920 with

Apple’s sales have been widely reported already to total 23.6 million units for Q3 2012 – which is up 36.2 percent from the previous year. Apple might have had a larger quarter if a great deal of the market hadn’t been sitting on the iPhone 5 launch, but this bodes well for Apple’s holiday season sales.

Research in Motion, Motorola and HTC all continued to fall in sales – these sales probably all ended up going to Samsung, which will continue to be the formidable key opponent each of these vendors will need to battle. Interestingly, the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei continue to make significant inroads – these vendors still rely on low end, low margin devices but they are both priming the pump for smartphone sales assaults.

Mobile Device Sales by Operating System

As the chart below shows, when the numbers focus purely in the smartphone market Android continues to ride herd over all others as it continues to increase its overall share of the market. Android sales across all devices were up 19.9 percent for Q3 2012. Gartner’s number of global market share of 72.4 percent is in line with the general consensus that Android now owns about 75 percent of the smartphone market overall. This is huge of course, but we need to keep in mind that the great preponderance of these phones are on the very low end of the spectrum, where features are limited, where possibly very old versions of Android still dominate (and fragmentation cannot be avoided), and where margins remain tight.

It would be very interesting to see how looking only at Android 4.x devices would change the numbers – this is where the direct (sorry, we can’t resist) Apple to Apple comparisons really exist.

As all research reports show, and as Gartner confirms, Symbian is obviously at the end of its lifecycle – and it is probably about time. Obviously a great deal of Nokia’s decline is due to Symbian’s end becoming real.

RIM’s BlackBerry 7 hardware moved up the ladder to the number three spot, with sales of 8.9 million devices to end users in the third quarter of 2012. Total RIM subscribers now total at least 80 million, a number that surprised most analysts when RIM announced it during its most recent earnings call. Technically, RIM device sales declined from last year, but the fall of Symbian was much greater, allowing RIM to sneak up the ladder.

The numbers for Windows are meaningless at this point in time. With the very official launch of Windows Phone 8 (WP8), and with a bevy of new WP8 devices about to hit the street, including the awesomely-priced Lumia 920, WP8 numbers will absolutely change from where they are in Q3 2012. WP8 must also be considered a long range game – it will be far more interesting to see where WP8 (and successor updates) sits following the 2015 holiday season, before we can truly begin to gauge how effective Microsoft’s plans end up being.

All in all, we can continue to expect to see more of the same over the next few quarters: Apple will dominate at the very high end (let’s see how those Android 4.x numbers stack up), Android has probably peaked as Nokia begins to develop its channels for low end WP8 smartphones (or so we hope), and RIM will likely remain unchanged. We can anticipate a great deal of new RIM sales (assuming – and it is a huge assumption here – RIM delivers awesome hardware on January 30, 2013), but these sales will in all probably go to existing RIM users. Whether or not RIM can add to its current base of 80 million subscribers will be the number to watch.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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