Samsung Presides Over the Smartphone Market, Thanks to Android

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 25, 2013

With news of Apple reporting slightly less-than-impressive quarterly numbers for its iPhone business, many people are taking note of the continuing success of Android smartphones, and Samsung's in particular. Sure enough, according to market research numbers from ABI Research, released yesterday, Samsung dominated handset shipments during Q4 of 2012, with 31 percent of total shipments. That's not the only area where Samsung is posting winning results.

Apple shipped 47.8 million iPhones in Q4 bringing its 2012 annual total to 135.8 million. Apple’s 2012 annual shipment growth declined from 96 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2012, according to ABI. In 2012 Samsung grew its handset shipments by 21.6 percent and its smartphone shipments by 123.8 percent, according to the report.

Samsung has remained very focused on Android, and that bet has paid off in the company's smartphone business. “It is clear that the iPhone’s hyper-growth has ended, and ABI Research believes that Apple’s market share will peak in 2013 at 22%,” said ABI mobile devices senior analyst Michael Morgan, in a statement. “Unless Apple is willing to trade iPhone margins for low cost iPhone shipments, Apple’s handset market share will become dependent on customer loyalty.”

 By contrast, RIM and Nokia's Q4 numbers were far behind Samsung and Apple. However, it is interesting to note that ABI reports that ZTE had an excellent Q4 with 20.7 million handset shipments and 11.2 million smartphone shipments. ZTE is on board to produce phones based on Mozilla's new Firefox OS platform, which could put another open operating system--in addition to Android--on the center stage with Android. ZTE has committed to being Mozilla's smartphone partner in China, and discussed doing Firefox OS phones for Europe.

“Technology optimization choices and a diverse handset portfolio are critical decisions over the next 6 to 9 months to come out ahead," concluded ABI's report. In terms of a "diverse handset portfolio," Android, and possibly Firefox OS, may offer Samsung and ZTE more flexibility than Apple has with the iOS platform. In any case, this year we should see healthy competition in smartphones, with open operating systems contributing to the positive effects that competition will have for mobile users.

Meanwhile, remember that Android only began to gain momentum in 2009, and since then, HTC and Motorola built significant brand strategies around the open source mobile OS, but it's very clear that Samsung has the biggest lock on the Android phone market. The strategy has served Samsung well.