Huawei Was Top Third Smartphone Vendor In Q4 After Samsung & Apple, Says IDC

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IDC’s Q4 report on the global mobile phone market reveals that Huawei sprang up into the top-three smartphone vendors in the world, a first for the company. In Q4, Huawei held a 4.9 percent marketshare based on unit shipments. This is much less than the 29 percent chunk held by Samsung and Apple’s 21.8 percent slice, but still placed Huawei ahead of Sony and ZTE. In the 2012 calendar year, Huawei was number four among the top five smartphone vendors by market share, after Samsung, Apple and Nokia, but ahead of Research In Motion.

Ramon Llamas, a research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team said:

“The fact that Huawei and ZTE now find themselves among the top 5 smartphone vendors marks a significant shift for the global market. Both companies have grown volumes by focusing on the mass market, but in recent quarters they have turned their attention toward higher-end devices. In addition, both companies have pushed the envelope in terms of industrial design with larger displays and smaller form factors, as well as innovative applications and experiences.”

Huawei’s mix of inexpensive smartphones for the mass market and its high-end Ascend-branded product line helped it gain market share, as well its unique hardware  design and software,  said IDC:

“Along the way, the company has demonstrated its innovative skills, having released the world’s thinnest (6.68 mm) smartphone last year, the Ascend P1, and this year it announced the upcoming Ascend Mate, the first smartphone with a 6.1-inch display. At the same time, Huawei has brought its own software innovations, including Magic Touch, Guiding Wizard, Smart Reading, and Floating Windows.”

Samsung, meanwhile, set a new record for smartphones shipped in a single quarter and in a single year. In Q4 alone, it shipped 63.7 million smartphones, up from 36.3 million shipped in Q4 2011. IDC believes that 2013 will be “a pivotal year” for Samsung as it prepares to release smartphones equipped with Tizen, the Linux-based operating system it is developing in conjunction with Intel. Apple’s record iPhone shipments of 47.8 million in Q4, up from 37 million a year ago, were “driven by successes in Greater China, where shipments more than doubled, as well as the U.S., where 6.2 million iPhones were activated on Verizon alone,” the report said. Interestingly, sales of older models, in particular, the iPhone 4, drove Apple’s smartphone shipments.

IDC says that the worldwide mobile phone market grew 1.9 percent year over year in Q4 2012, as holiday shopping pushed smartphone sales to almost the same level as feature phones. In the last quarter, vendors shipped a total of 482.5 million mobile phones compared to 473.4 million units in Q4 2011. For the full year, however, the global market for mobile phones was flat, declining 0.2% on shipments of more than 1.7 billion units.