Apple Claims 7.9% of Mobile Phone Market in Q1

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Apple’s share of the handset market grew to 7.9 percent during the March quarter of 2012, according to new data from Gartner. That’s the company’s share of all mobile phones, and not just smartphones, and it makes Apple the third largest mobile phone maker on the planet behind Nokia and Samsung.

All told, handset sales declined 2 percent year over year to 419.1 million units. Gartner noted that this is the first time since the second quarter of 2009 that we have seen a a year-over-year quarterly decline.

Gartner Unit Sales

Chart by The Mac Observer, from Gartner data

The interesting thing for Apple watchers, however, is that Apple’s share of that market increased from 3.9 percent to 7.9 percent, more than double, as shown in the chart above. This, even though Apple only competes with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S, whereas many of its competitors have dozens of feature phone and smartphone models.

We should also note that Gartner measures sales to end users with its own methodology. While Apple reported 35 million iPhone sales in the March quarter, Gartner showed the company with 33.1 million sales to end users. Such discrepancies are common.


While total mobile handset sales are down, smartphones continued strong year-over-year growth. Gartner said that smartphone unit sales to end users increased 44.7 percent to 144.4 million units.

As the market has grown, Gartner said that it has become commoditized, and that, “differentiation is becoming a challenge for manufacturers.”

“This is particularly true for smartphones based on the Android OS, where a strong commoditization trend is at work and most players are finding it hard to break the mould,” Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

He said that this is particularly true of Android devices, and that at the midrange, price has become the only differentiator. That’s bad news for hardware markers struggling to find profits in a market where Apple alone claims some 80 percent of the hardware profits, and Samsung claims the lion’s share of what’s left.

At the high end, Gartner said that those major players with intellectual property assets have some room to differentiate with apps and services, though the report didn’t offer any specifics.

As for Apple, the company’s unit sales increased 96.2 percent year over year, more than double the smartphone market as a whole. Apple’s smartphone share increased from 16.9 percent in Q1 2011 to 22.9 percent in Q1 of 2012.

Gartner cited strong sales in China and Hong Kong and the popularity of the iPhone 4S as fueling Apple’s growth.

In the chart below, we’ve compared smartphone unit sales from Q1 2011 to unit sales in Q1 2012. It demonstrates the large increase in total sales, as well as Apple’s increased share of those sales. It also shows the converse for Nokia’s Symbian (which has been discontinued anyway) and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform.

Smartphone Unit Sales

Chart by The Mac Observer, from Gartner data

We put together one more chart, this one showing smartphone market share for Q1 2011 and Q1 2012 as pie charts, as shown below.

Smartphone Market Share

Chart by The Mac Observer, from Gartner data

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These figures cover a lot of sin. I get to watch local adverts here in S/SE Asia. Much of the Android growth in this region is attributable to Samsung. To their credit, Samsung have a plethora of low-end, inexpensive devices porting Android, in addition to their feature phones, but more importantly, adverts depicting all of the miraculous things you can do with their devices, and with such ease! All the users are attractive European and/or multicultural types in nondescript but cosmopolitan locales, happy, trendy, clearly upwardly mobile 20-somethings.

These adverts have worked like charms. However, the markets are such that end-user satisfaction data are seldom collected, and more seldom still, publicly reported. It would be interesting to get a read on end user satisfaction. I recall that it was only three years ago that Nokia were advertising how their handsets could be used to play music, games etc all with such ease - again to these markets where such services are relatively non-existent.

The point being, these are being marketed to a consumer base with little a priori expectation of end-user experience and little basis of comparison. OEMs here needn’t articulate a user experience, merely the image of one, and focus primarily on handset features rather than an ecosystem.

It’s a very different strategy in low and middle income countries, where competition is minimal (most devices are feature-comparable and differ only in price, with tiers set for different consumers, i.e. socioeconomic strata) - and where Apple is yet to even compete.


What these figures don’t say is that unit sales share isn’t the important metric. It is ecosystem health, app platform share, usage share, developer income, third party peripheral marketshare, manufacturer profitshare, web browser share, business market share etc which are far more revealing as to who is beating who in the mobile market:

- 80% of mobile devices activated by businesses last quarter were iOS devices according to Good Technologies.
- 73.9% of business smartphones in use were iPhones
- The iPad accounted for 97.3 % of business tablet activations for the quarter.
- 90% of mobile purchases were made on iPads and iPhones according to Rich Relevance
- 69% of mobile web browsing occurs on iOS devices versus only 27% on Android devices according to Chitika
- 89% of the mobile web browsing on a typical Australian university?s websites are from iOS devices and only 10% from Android
- 84% of mobile gaming revenue is now captured by iOS according to NewZoo
- iOS developer income share is 6x greater than Android
- Apple has now captured an 80% share of the profits of the entire cellphone industry.
- iOS has a vastly larger ecosystem of third party hardware peripherals, accessories, cases, docks, car integration, app numbers, app downloads and sheer developer numbers than Android or Samsung.

Although lots of people buy Android phones, so many are obviously such cut-price hardware that they must only be used as dumbphones as users certainly aren’t browsing the web on them, using them for work, purchasing content or engaging in web commerce.

These are the figures that matter to developers, advertisers, content producers, shareholders, business people and ultimately consumers and Apple is head and shoulders above all competition in these terms.

What this shows is that Samsung’s unit shipment successes and those of Android in general have not translated into success in the areas that matter.


“according to new data from Gartner…
...The interesting thing for Apple watchers, however, is that Apple?s share of that market increased from 3.9 percent to 7.9 percent, more than double, as shown in the chart above”

Hooray for iOS!! ...but hold on, maybe not so fast to your celebrations, Apple fanboy/girls!

That chart, and Gartners’ source data (below), not only show iOS’s wonderful total world cellphone share increasing from 3.9% to 7.9 %, but also show Android’s 1Q12 total world cellphone sales percentage of 19.34% (81,067.4K/419,108.3K) was an even bigger doubling (2.276 fold) of Android’s 1Q11 total world percentage of 8.496% (36,350.1K/427,845.7K) than was iOS’s doubling!:

Table 1 - Worldwide Mobile Device Sales to End Users by Vendor in 1Q12 (Thousands of Units):
Company   1Q12 Units   1Q12 %MS     1Q11 Units   1Q11 %MS

Samsung     86,567.6K     20.7%        68,782.0K     16.1%
Apple         33,120.5K       7.9%        16,883.2K     3.9%
Total         419,108.3K     100.0%      427,845.7K 100.0%


Table 2 - Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 1Q12 (Thousands of Units):
OS         1Q12 Units   1Q12 %MS     1Q11 Units   1Q11 %MS

Android     81,067.4K     56.1%        36,350.1K     36.4%
iOS             33,120.5K     22.9%        16,883.2K     16.9%


What this shows is that Samsung?s unit shipment successes and those of Android in general have not translated into success in the areas that matter.


Good points all, and points with which I agree. Rather, my point in this instance is that, as a global market player, Samsung (and others like HTC) are using rather different strategies for populations whose choices and means, not to mention tech-exposure, are limited than for those whose options and exposure are broader - particularly where they have to compete with Apple.

Many of these sales are not only to people in emerging but low-income markets, who have limited choice, but they are selling the image of a lifestyle for which there are no supportive structures on the ground (or in the cloud). Quite successfully, I might add.

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