Smartphone sales exceeded 200 million units in the last quarter of 2012 – the most ever sold in a three-month period – bringing the annual total up to 671 million, according to Juniper Research.
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The biggest selling supplier was Samsung, said the research. It sold 63 million smartphones in the fourth quarter (Q4), over 40 million of which were its flagship Galaxy S III device, and accounted for 30% of all shipments.
Apple came in second place, having sold 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter. However, despite being a record for the company, it was lower than expected after the launch of its most recent device – the iPhone 5 – and Christmas sales which should have boosted figures higher.
The research also showed the mixed bag of results coming from Nokia. It managed to sell 6.6 million smartphones in the three months, but while its flagship Lumias slowly began to build a following with 4.4 million shipments, its Symbian-based handset sales fell dramatically to just 2.2 million.
The research came in the same week all three manufacturers released their results. Nokia returned to profitability in the quarter, reporting profits of €439m for the three-month period, up from a €576m loss in the previous quarter and a €954m loss in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Samsung and Apple solidified their positions as market leaders, however, with the former’s mobile unit bringing in revenues of 27.23tn Korean won (£16bn) and the latter racking up sales of $54.5bn for all of its products.
Juniper warned that the largest suppliers did need to look out though, as smaller firms were starting to make their impact on the marketplace.
Huawei introduced over 20 smartphones to the market in 2012, shipped 20 million devices and made revenues of over $35bn.
“While other smartphone suppliers, including LG and ZTE, have managed to maintain their smartphone market shares, they are still facing challenges when competing against the premium brands.
“Similar to Samsung, these suppliers are introducing a number of new product ranges and marketing activities to maintain their visibility in the market,” the report concluded.