Gartner has just released its Q1 figures for mobile handset sales, and the key takeaway is that Android continues to steal the show, led by handset maker Samsung. Google’s mobile platform now accounts for nearly 75% of all handset sales, a jump of almost 20 percentage points on a year ago, and equating to 156 million devices sold in the three-month period. Smartphones sales grew by 63 million units to 210 million for the quarter, making up nearly half of all mobile phone sales overall, at 425 million. With the number of mobile handset sales up by a mere 0.7% on a year ago, it’s clear that higher-end devices are very the much growth engine for the mobile industry at the moment.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting figures from Gartner.
Although Samsung does not release exact sales figures for its devices, Gartner estimates that the Korean giant is the biggest of them all: it accounted for almost 31% of all smartphones sold in the period, with Apple in number-two with 18%. It’s quite a change from last year, when the two were nearly level, with just 5 percentage points separating them. The widening gap, and Samsung’s growth, will continue into the quarter ahead, it seems, led by the popularity of the company’s newest flagship model.
“We expect the new Galaxy S4 to be very popular despite being more of an evolution than a truly revolutionary device compared to the S3,” writes Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.
On the other hand, the fact remains that at least some appear to still be holding out for the next iPhone rather than going for the iPhone 5; and Apple meanwhile is still holding back from releasing new, low-cost models that might help it along more in emerging markets and compete more comprehensively against the huge range of Android devices out there.
The gap between the two biggest brands and number three continues to be a big one, with Samsung very much taking the lead here. “There are two clear leaders in the OS market and Android’s dominance in the OS market is unshakable,” Anshul writes.
Together, Apple and Samsung accounted for 49 million handset sales. This is down by 1.1 million from a year ago, and as the smartphone market continues to grow, the players who are vying to be the next big challengers continues to churn. LG swapped places with Huawei, and is currently at number-three at 4.8 million units (with a strong showing from some of its newer 4G handsets and its lower-cost smartphone range). Huawei’s 4.4 million, however, shows that it continues to press ahead, as does fellow Chinese handset maker ZTE, which rounds out the top-five:
Samsung, unsurprisingly, is also leading in the overall mobile category, which also counts sales of lower-end feature phones. Its share there is now 23.6%, topping 100 million units.
Just as Samsung is widening the gap against Apple in smartphones, it’s doing the same with Nokia in the overall rankings. The Finnish giant is still number-two but with a 14.8% share, a drop of 5 percentage points on last year.
Looking at mobile platform prominence in smartphones, Android’s current 74.4% market share is nothing short of astounding in terms of its increase, particularly considering that at this point there is no sign of it slowing down.
Gartner’s numbers, it should be noted, are some 10% higher than those from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech that were released at the end of April: a sign of the margin of error between different analysts’ estimates resulting from different counting methods. Here are yet more numbers from IDC, which claims that smartphones outshipped feature phones, and Canalys, which was also more bullish than Gartner on smartphone numbers at a 300 million estimate.
Back to Gartner: the 156 million units sold in the quarter is actually almost double what was sold in the same period a year ago. Android is without a doubt riding the very crest of the smartphone wave: Gartner points out that smartphones accounted for 49.3% of sales of mobile phones worldwide, up from 34.8% in Q1 of 2012, and 44% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Apple continues to grow but at a slower pace, managing to increase its share by a “mere” 5 million. BlackBerry (still called RIM by Gartner: hello rebranding!) continues to drop, indicating that at least so far, its big BB10 attack has yet to bear significant fruit. Microsoft is showing a respectable doubling of growth to nearly 6 million units, but that is pretty tiny when you look back to Android and its 156 million. It shows that a significant amount of work remains to be done by Microsoft and partners like Nokia if it expects to get anywhere within spitting distance of Android, or even Apple.
Still, the cautionary tale of Symbian remains a sign of how fast a handset maker can fall from grace. It’s now at 0.3 percent of sales now that Nokia has discontinued its production of the once market-leading devices — although its share was falling fast even before that.
Gartner points out that Asia is currently the market driver for mobile phone sales worldwide, accounting for more than half of all sales, with China remaining the biggest single market.
“More than 226 million mobile phones were sold to end users in Asia/Pacific in the first quarter of 2013, which helped the region increase its share of global mobile phones to 53.1 per cent year-on-year,” writes Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner. “In addition, China saw its mobile phone sales increase 7.5% in the first quarter of 2013, and its sales represented 25.7 per cent of global mobile phone sales, up nearly 2 percentage points year-on-year.”