Worldwide sales of mobile phones to end users declined 2 per cent in the first quarter of 2012.
Worldwide sales of mobile phones to end users reached 419.1 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 2 per cent decline from the first quarter of 2011. However, the launch of Apple Inc's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 will help drive a stronger second half in Western Europe and North America, according to Gartner, Inc.
This is the first time since the second quarter of 2009 that the market exhibited a decline. Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner: "The lower results in the first quarter of 2012 have led us to be cautious about sales for the remainder of the year. The continued roll-out of third generation (3G)-based smartphones by local and regional manufacturers such as Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, Yulong and TCL Communication should help spur demand in China.
"In addition, the arrival of new products in mature markets based on new versions of the Android and Windows Phone operating systems (OSs), and the launch of the Apple iPhone 5 will help drive a stronger second half in Western Europe and North America. However, as we are starting to update our market forecast we feel a downward adjustment to our 2012 figures, in the range of 20 million units, is unavoidable."
Impact on vendors
All vendors were impacted at different levels; however, white-box vendors seem to have suffered the most. While tier one players such as Nokia were negatively impacted on sell-in numbers (sold into retail), white-box vendors were unable to adjust production and were left with a build-up in inventory by the end of the quarter.
Gartner expects some of this volume to be sold during the next couple of quarters, because the channel is likely to lower the prices to dispose of the stock.
Samsung became the world’s top mobile handset vendor during the quarter, displacing Nokia which had held the No. 1 spot since 1998. Samsung’s mobile phone sales reached 86.6 million units, a 25.9 percent increase from last year.
Samsung took back the world’s No. 1 smartphone position from Apple, selling 38 million smartphones worldwide. In addition, Samsung’s Android-based smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2012 represented more than 40 percent of Android-based smartphone sales worldwide; no other vendors achieved more than a 10 percent share of the market.
Sales of smartphones continued to drive mobile device market growth, reaching 144.4 million units in the first quarter of 2012, up 44.7 percent year-over-year. This quarter also saw the top two smartphone vendors, Apple and Samsung, raising their combined share to 49.3 percent, up from 29.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011, and widening their lead over Nokia – which saw its smartphone market share drop to 9.2 percent.
Driven by the continued success of the iPhone 4S, Apple’s sales grew 96.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 as the new model expanded into new markets and carriers. Sales in China were particularly strong this quarter. With more than 5 million units, China became the second-largest market for Apple after the U.S. On top of the sales through official carriers’ channels, there was an increase in transshipments from Hong Kong where volume has been growing over the past few quarters to reach a sell-in of more than 3 million units.
RIM sold 9.9 million mobile handsets in the first quarter of 2012, with its global share declining to 2.4 percent as competition increased in its international market strongholds.
In the smartphone OS market, Android accounted for more than half of all smartphone sales (56.1 percent) in the first quarter of 2012. Gartner analysts said the smartphone market has become highly commoditized and differentiation is becoming a challenge for manufacturers.
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