Apple Gains Share in Mobile, Loses Smartphone Share

Apple got a mixed 3rd quarter report card from Gartner Wednesday, as the research firm showed Apple gaining share in the global mobile handset market while losing share in the smartphone-specific market. Android, on the other hand, showed a sharp gains, gaining 19.9 percentage points to claim 72.4 percent of the smartphone market.

Let's look at the smartphone market first. The chart below shows sales to end users by operating system for the September quarter in 2011 and 2012. Note the sharp increase in share for Android, most of which came from Symbian OS, Nokia's now-canceled smartphone OS. Symbian's share fell from 16.9 percent in 2011 to 2.6 percent in 2012.

Global Platform Share

Chart by The Mac Observer from Gartner Data

Research In Motion (RIM) also saw a sharp decline from 11 percent to 5.3 percent, but the company's performance was still strong enough to allow it to scrabble into third place. Samsung's Bada OS showed a slight increase, while Microsoft went from 1.5 percent to the towering achievement of 2.4 percent. Still, it's the first gain Windows Phone has made in years.

All told global sales of smartphones rose 46.9 percent year-over-year, and surprise, surprise, Samsung and Apple are dominating this market.

“Both vendors together controlled 46.5 percent of smartphone market leaving a handful of vendors fighting over a distant third spot,” Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

Apple's sales grew 36.2 percent in the third quarter, but that wasn't enough to keep pace with the market as many customers waited for the release of the iPhone 5 at the end of the quarter.

“We saw inventory built up into the channel as Apple prepared for the coming holiday season, global expansions and the launch into China in the fourth quarter of 2012,” Mr. Gupta said. He added that Apple's holiday quarter should be strong.

The chart above shows share by smartphone platform, but Gartner also said that Samsung sold some 55 million smartphones during the quarter for 32.5 percent share in that market, a commanding lead over Apple led by Galaxy S III.


Believe it or not, the vast majority of mobile handsets sold are feature phones, rather than smartphones. In this broader "handset" market, Apple gained share, because the broader handset market shrank compared to 2011, while Apple's iPhone sales increased. All told, Apple's share of handset sales increased from 3.9 percent to 5.5 percent.

Samsung was the leader, however, claiming the top spot again from one-time leader Nokia. Samsung's share increased from 18.7 percent to 22.9 percent, while Nokia did almost a mirror image decrease from 23.9 percent to 19.2 percent.

The chart below shows that the rest of the market jockeyed for position behind Apple. Note that the "Others" category continues to grow, as small makers in Asia, especially China, churn out cheap devices by the truckload.

Handset Sales by Vendor

Chart by The Mac Observer from Gartner Data

Earlier in November we reported that Apple's iPhone and iOS had both posted gains in the third quarter, according to comScore. That report was U.S. specific and measured subscribers, rather than global sales to end users, which is what Gartner was reporting. In other words, these two reports are not mutually exclusive, and are really an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Most hardware industry watchers and analysts are focused on new sales (i.e. reports like Gartner's), while carrier watchers and analysts will show more interest in subscriber share.