Apple Tops Nokia as Largest Handset Maker in the World

When Apple Shrugs

Apple has topped Nokia to become the world’s largest handset maker in terms of revenue, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. Nokia sold five times as many handsets (108.5 million Nokia phones) as Apple sold iPhones (18.65 million) during the quarter, but when it comes to dollars, Apple is now king.


“Apple became the world’s largest handset vendor in wholesale revenue terms during Q1 2011,” Strategy Analytics said in a statement. “Fueled by strong volumes and high wholesale prices, the PC maker has risen to the top of the mobile phone market in just four years. In revenue terms, Apple is now the world’s largest handset vendor, smartphone vendor and tablet vendor.”

On Wednesday, Apple reported that it had sold 18.7 million iPhones during the March quarter, which Strategy Analytics estimates to have a wholesale value of US$11.9 billion. That amount handily trounces Nokia’s handset revenue for the quarter of $9.4 billion.

It’s these kinds of stats that muddy the water when talking about the market share battle between Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS platform. Nokia still has the most market share in smartphones in the globe, but is barely a player in the U.S. market, where Google is now #1 and Apple and Research In Motion are battling it out for #2. Android is expected to become #1 in the globe sooner, rather than later, eclipsing Nokia.

On the other hand, back in September, we reported that the iPhone had gobbled up 39% of the entire mobile phone industry’s profits during the first half of 2010, while selling just 2.8% of all mobile phone devices. The iPhone has only grown in popularity since then, while Android devices have gained market share in part because of a proliferation at the low end (read: markedly less profitable) of the market.

In other words, Apple’s share of mobile handset revenues is likely to remain vastly disproportionate to its share of the market as measured by unit sales.

With most of the revenue, how concerned can Apple be about unit market share? That’s a question only Apple executives can answer, and they have chosen to focus on iOS as a whole (iOS includes iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad), and not just the iPhone’s share of the smartphone or mobile phone market.

In the meanwhile, Nokia has pinned its future hopes on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Phone 7, a move that could allow Nokia to shift its product mix to higher end devices. Of course, that’s utterly dependent on the company then being able to sell those higher end, Windows Phone 7 devices, but Nokia’s marketing prowess and mindshare outside the U.S. is substantial, and not to be dismissed.