Huawei has jumped into third place on the smartphone sales rankings, a big boost for the Chinese smartphone maker which has been making a push into the UK.
The research by IDC shows that the worldwide mobile phone market remained relatively flat in 2012, rising by just 1.2% year on year to 1.7bn units. What has changed is the proportion of sales – smartphones now account for 45.5% of all mobile phones sold, or 713 million smartphones. This was 44.1% more than in 2011.
“The high-growth smartphone market, though dominated by Samsung and Apple, still presents ample opportunities for challengers,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
“Vendors with unique market advantages, such as lower-cost devices, can rapidly gain market share, especially in emerging markets. A good example is Huawei, which overtook LG as a Top 5 vendor in the overall mobile phone market and passed HTC to become a Top 5 smartphone vendor.”
Huawei and ZTE jumping into the top 5 shows a fundamental shift in the market – HTC was once the largest Android smartphone maker, while LG has a long pedigree in the mobile phone market. By comparison, Huawei and ZTE are upstarts, but represent the industry’s move toward China.
Samsung set a new record for the number of smartphones shipped in a single year.
Apple saw record iPhone shipments in the 4th quarter (see Apple’s results here) were driven by successes in China, where its shipments more than doubled. IDC says that Apple also saw success from its older models, such as the iPhone 4, which it couldn’t match demand.
Huawei suddenly finds itself among the top three smartphone vendors in the world, a first for the company. Previously the company has Top 10 at best. Huawei has done well with its budget lines and its Ascend high end line, which was one of the earliest 4G models. It recently announced the Ascend Mate, the first smartphone with a 6.1-inch display.
Sony is continuing work on growing its stake in the high end, more focused since the Ericsson buy out. The Xperia Z is to be launched shortly.
ZTE has made its success in the low end of the market, particularly in selling white label phones (i.e. phones rebranded as Vodafone, or Verizon). The shipped more smartphones than feature phones for the first time, and has seen great success in emerging markets.