Mobile phone sales fall in 2012

Economic pressures and increased market competition are to blame for a 1.7% in the mobile phone market in 2012, according to Gartner

The number of mobile phones sold in 2012 fell 1.7% compared to the previous year, claimed a study released today by Gartner, making it the first year since 2009 that shipments have dropped.

Sales across the globe came close to 1.75 billion, compared to over 1.77 billion in 2011, with the decline in feature phone shipments – down 19.3% in the fourth quarter year-on-year – playing a large part.

However, smartphone sales managed to boost the figures, with the fourth quarter of 2012 recording record shipments of 207.7 million handsets, up 38.3% year on year.

Samsung and Apple continued to rule the roost when it came to market share for smartphones – first and second place respectively, and responsible for 52% of all sales – but for the first time, Huawei took the third spot, having shipped 27.2 million smartphones in 2012 – up by 73.8% on 2011’s figures.

Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, said this place on the podium was not guaranteed for long though.

“There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the number three spot in global smartphone sales,” he said. 

“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.”

But even in a hard economic climate, there is no getting away from Samsung’s dominance. It sold 384.6 million handsets in 2012 – more than half of which were smartphones – and accounted for more than 42.5% of all Android handsets sold.

Android remained in the top spot when it came to shipments on a mobile operating system basis, with Apple’s iOS coming in second. But with Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS making small gains in 2012 and BlackBerry having unveiled its new mobile OS – BlackBerry 10 – Gupta believes the third spot will be the interesting battle to watch over the next year.

“2013 will be the year of the rise of the third ecosystem as the battle between the new BlackBerry10 and Widows Phone intensifies,” Gupta said.

“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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