Monday, January 30, 2012

Samsung wins the 2011 smartphone war, but loses the Q4 2011 battle to Apple

Samsung and Apple continue to slug it out for the crown of top smartphone maker globally, and 2011 ended with Apple taking the latest battle --- for the quarter --- but with Samsung taking the crown for the entire 2011 calendar year.

It's true, though, that on the strength of the launch of its iPhone 4S meant, Apple overtook Korean-based Samsung in Q4, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli. It wasn't by a huge amount, with iSuppli noting that Apple shipped 37M smartphones in Q4, while Samsung shipped 36 million.

What was huge was the spike in sales from Q3 2011 to Q4 2011, for Apple. Apple's shipments rose 117 percent on the strength of its new device, while Samsung only saw shipments rise 28 percent during the peak holiday shopping season.

That explosive growth in iPhone sales is what has led Apple to within an eyelash of Android in recent sales, according to Nielsen.

That said, Samsung saw its own huge rise in sales, with a 278 percent increase in smartphone sales year-over-year, while Apple was no slouch with a 96 percent rise from 2010 to 2011. Samsung rose from 25 million shipped in 2010 to 95 million in 2011, while Apple rose from 47 million in 2010 to 93 million in 2011.

Wayne Lam, a senior analyst of wireless communications at IHS, said in a statement, "Samsung advanced in 2011 because of its strategy of offering a complete line of smartphone products, spanning a variety of price points, features and operating systems. This enabled Samsung to move past perennial market leader Nokia and to slightly exceed Apple's total for the year."

Although though of as an Android OEM, Samsung has its own smartphone platform, Bada, and it also ships devices sporting Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Rival market research firm Strategy Analytics had the same ranking of the two companies for Q4 2011, but listed Samsung's smartphone shipments at slightly more, 36.5 million units.

For now, it appears to be a two-horse race among smartphone makers, although it is true --- Android's strength has been its variety of handsets, and HTC and Motorola still produce a number of compelling designs, along with smaller firms LG, ZTE, and even more.

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