Dec. 18, 2012 at 3:53 PM ET
The year belongs to Samsung when it comes to worldwide phone shipments: The Korean megacorp unseated 14-year champ Nokia as top phonemaker, and took a "decisive lead" over Apple in smartphones, according to a ear end report from IHS iSuppli.
Samsung is expected to account for 29 percent of all phones shipped in 2012, up from 24 percent in 2011, while Nokia drops from 30 percent a year ago to 24 percent now. Though Samsung has been on top, this is the first time that it has earned the title for a whole year.
The reason for the flip-aroo? As the IHS report explains:
Samsung's success has been built on its “fast follower” strategy for design and manufacturing. The company produces dozens of new smartphone models every year that address all segments of the market, from the high end to the low end. Samsung monitors the big trends in smartphone design, user needs and unmet market opportunities, then creates products to fit those markets quickly and efficiently.
Meanwhile, Finnish-based Nokia is mired in transitioning its smartphone line to the Windows operating system, resulting in declining shipments for the company. Sales of the company’s older Symbian-based phones have plunged, while its new Microsoft Windows 7-based handsets haven’t been able to make up for the loss so far.
Seems pretty straightforward, and a known state of affairs. As for Apple, that too is known. Last year ended in a dead heat, and this year, before the iPhone 5 hit stores, Samsung managed to pull ahead, not just with the flagship Galaxy S III but also with lower-cost Galaxy models. "This diversified market approach has allowed Samsung to address a larger target audience for its phones than Apple’s limited premium iPhone line."
The issue for all other phone makers is that, according to IHS: Apple and Samsung have a "duopoly," the only two carriers with double-digit market share in 2012, together making up 49 percent of all smartphone shipments. Nokia, RIM and HTC all faced a tough 2012 against both of the dominant competitors.
IHS says that 2013 is the year that smartphones officially take the majority of all phones, with 56 percent of the market by year's end. "This event will mark a significant tipping point in the mobile handset market," says the report.
But will it tip the scales enough for Apple to start selling cheaper iPhones, perhaps smaller ones without Retina displays? That remains to be seen.