Nokia’s Loss Is Samsung’s Gain: Top Global Cellphone Brand Won’t Be Finnish For First Time In 14 Years

Nokia’s once cluttered mobile trophy cabinet hasn’t had much silverware to boast of in recent years — as the company has been moving from its legacy smartphone OS to Microsoft’s Windows Phone — shedding massive amounts of marketshare in the process, and watching fleet-of-foot Android OEMs expand to fill the gap. Despite this smartphone switch, Nokia has continued to sell a lot of basic mobile phones — running its S40 OS (it shipped 76.6 million mobiles in its Q3, for instance) — which has helped it stay on top of the annual global cellphone rankings. But no longer.

This year will be the first time in 14 years Nokia’s name is not top of the list, according to analyst IHS iSuppli. That honour will go to 2011’s runner up: Samsung.

IHS says Samsung is expected to account for approaching a third (29 percent) of worldwide mobile shipments in 2012, up from 24 percent in 2011. While Nokia’s share this year is expected to drop to 24 percent, down from 30 percent last year — so it’s pretty much a straight marktet share swap. Apple is third in IHS’ preliminary 2012 forecast, predicted to take 10 percent of the market this year.

The analyst notes that its the first time Samsung has achieved top billing in the mobile table — although Nokia has been the runner-up before — back in 1998.

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Smartphones are the fastest-growing segment of the cellphone market — accounting for nearly half of all wireless handset shipments for all of 2012 — and with Android and Samsung taking the lion’s share of smartphone sales per quarter (Android took a 75 percent of the global share in Q3, according to IDC) it’s no surprise the Korean mobile giant finally gets to take the overall, annual mobile crown too.

IHS predicts global smartphone shipments will rise by 35.5 percent this year, while overall cellphone shipments are expected to rise by only around 1 percent. This rapid smartphone growth will push 2012 smartphone penetration to 47 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011, it predicts.

IHS says Samsung’s success has been built on its ‘fast follower’ strategy for design and manufacturing — which sees it fire out myriad devices across the price spectrum to build volume. The analyst said it expects Samsung’s share of global smartphone shipments to rise 8 points to 28 percent this year, up from 20 percent in 2011. In contrast, it said Nokia will suffer the biggest decrease: with its share forecast to plunge by 11 points to 5 percent in 2012, down from 16 percent in 2011.

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Beyond Nokia, there’s cold comfort in IHS’ rankings for smartphone makers HTC and RIM: both are predicted to slip to just a five percent share apiece of the 2012 smartphone handset market, dropping from nine percent and 11 percent respectively in 2011.

HTC has suffered by having to compete in an Android landscape that is so dominated by Samsung, while RIM has spent the year undertaking its own platform transition — and won’t have any handsets running its next-gen BlackBerry 10 OS in the market until 2013.