iSuppli: Smartphone Market Declines, but Apple iPhone Grows 15%

Apple Inc. turned in double digit sequential sales growth with its iPhone product line during the March quarter of 2011, even though the global smartphone market as a whole showed a sequential decline of 1.5%, according to new figures released by research firm IHS iSuppli. The company said that Apple maintained its second place ranking in smartphones behind Nokia, whose sales declined by 14.5%, and ahead of Research In Motion, whose saw modest growth of 4.2%.

iSuppli Table

iSuppli pointed to the release of the first CDMA iPhone and the addition of Verizon as a second major U.S. carrier during the quarter as a prime driver of Apple’s growth. This boosted sales of the iPhone, and it did so at the direct expense of competitors, the firm argued.

“Not only did this allow Apple to expand its target market and boost shipments,” Tina Teng, senior analyst, wireless communications, for IHS, said in a statement, “it also placed additional pressure on rival smart phone brands—including Motorola, Samsung, LG and HTC—that focus on Verizon Wireless as a major customer.”

The company also said that the Verizon iPhone hurt Motorola the most because Moto has focused its U.S. business around Verizon. Motorola saw a 16.3% decline in global unit sales.

In the global race, Apple managed to significantly cut into Nokia’s lead as the world’s #1 maker of smartphone devices. In the December quarter of 2010, Nokia had a 12.2 percentage point lead on Apple, when Nokia shipped 28.3 million smartphones compared to Apple’s 16.2 million iPhones. That gap narrowed to just 5.7 percentage points in the March quarter, when Nokia shipped 24.2 million devices and Apple shipped 18.6 million iPhones.

The Mac Observer put together two charts to show how the global smartphone business was shaped during the last two quarters. The first one shows total units for each of the top ten brands, plus the eleventh category of “Others.” It demonstrates how Apple has narrowed the gap between it and Nokia, while widening the gap with all other competitors.

Unit shipments for Q4 2010 and Q1 2011 for the top ten brands, plus “Others”,  in millions of units

Global Smartphone Shipments

Graph built by The Mac Observer from iSuppli data

The second chart offers the same numbers but in a form that more readily shows just how much of the global smartphone business is dominated by Nokia, Apple, and RIM. It also clearly represents Apple’s growing chunk of the market.

Total unit shipments for Q4 2010 and Q1 2011 in millions of units

Global Smartphone Shipments

Graph built by The Mac Observer from iSuppli data

There were two more points of interest we found in iSuppli’s report. The first is the LG’s sequential growth in the March quarter was explosive. While the company’s overall market share of 4.1% during the quarter remains small, its growth of 60% from 2.5 million units to 4 million units is huge.

We also noted that name brands took a large chunk of business away from the “Others” category, which saw its business shrink from 6.2 million units to 4.4 million. This could well be the effect of Android’s ascendency as a platform knocking out a variety of erstwhile competing smartphone platforms.