Gartner: Apple #4 Mobile Phone Maker in the World

Apple’s iPhone sales grew to propel the company to be the #4 mobile phone maker on the planet during the September quarter of 2010, according to a new report from research firm Gartner. That’s mobile phone maker, not just the smaller sub-market for smartphones, where Apple is a much bigger player (Gartner only ranked smartphone OSes, not individual manufacturers of smartphones). Gartner’s figures show Apple with 13.5 million iPhone sales, enough to capture 3.2% of the cellphone market.

Apple’s own sales figures for the quarter put iPhone sales at 14.5 million, but both Gartner nor IDC use their own proprietary methods for accounting for sales in their market share reports.

Apple’s share grew from 2.3% to 3.2%, the only vendor in the top 8 to show an increase in market share in cellphones. That’s because of a new factor in the cellphone market, white box manufacturers, that has caused the “Other” category to explode from 16.1% to 33% of the market.

Like their PC distaff cousins, white box cell phone markers are small companies that make limited runs of very cheap, very generic low-tech cellphones. These companies long proliferated in China, but have expanded their reach into other emerging economies in Africa, India, South America, as well as Russia.

Accordingly, Nokia’s marketshare fell from 36.7% of the market to just 28.2%, even though the company sold four million more devices year-over-year (113.5 million in Q3 2009, up to 117.5 million in Q2 of 2010). Samsung’s unit sales leapt from 60.6 million in 2009 to 71.7 million in 2010 (propelled in part by Android devices), but its market share fell from 19.6% to 17.2% during the quarter.

Table 1
Worldwide Mobile Terminal Sales to End Users in 3Q10 (Thousands of Units)

Gartner Global Mobile Phone Marketshare Chart

Source: Gartner (November 2010)


Like NPD, which released its own report on the September quarter earlier this month, Gartner based its rankings in the smartphone market on operating system, and not manufacturer, this despite the fact that three of the top four operating systems in this market are proprietary, whole widget solutions (Nokia’s Symbian, Apple’s iOS, and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry).

Be that as it may, Apple ranked #3 in the world in smartphone OSes with 16.7% of the market. Symbian remains the world’s top selling smartphone platform with 36.6% of the market, while Android is #2 with 25.5% of the market. Research In Motion slipped to #4 with 14.8%. Trailing a distant #5 is Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform, with 2.8%.

Gartner took time to praise Apple’s performance, and to highlight the advantage the company has with its iTunes/App Store ecosystem. The firm also noted that Apple could have sold more iPhones during the quarter except for the constraints on supply the company dealt with throughout most of the quarter.

“Apple’s dramatic expansion of iOS with the iPad and the continuing success of the iPod Touch are important sales achievements in their own right. But more importantly they contribute to the strength of Apple’s ecosystem and the iPhone in a way that smartphone-only manufacturers cannot compete with,” Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement.

She added, “To a developer, the iPod Touch and iPhone (and to a lesser extent the iPad) are effectively the same device and a single market opportunity. While Android is increasingly available on media tablets and media players like the Galaxy Player, it lags far behind iOS’s multi-device presence. Apple claims it is activating around 275,000 iOS devices per day on average — that’s a compelling market for any developer. And developers’ applications in turn attract users.”

Table 2
Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 3Q10 (Thousands of Units)

Gartner Global Smartphone OS Chart

Source: Gartner (November 2010)