Research Firm IHS: Apple Retook Smartphone Lead in 4Q11

Research firm IHS, which now owns iSuppli, on Thursday said that Apple retook the number one spot in global smartphone shipments during 4Q11, thanks to the iPhone 4S, but Samsung grabbed the pole position for all of 2011.

As the company reported during its Tuesday earnings call, Apple shipped 37 million iPhones worldwide during 4Q11, narrowly beating out Samsung’s total of 36 million. IHS noted that Samsung was ranked first in 3Q11, while Apple had held the top spot in 2Q11.

For the year, Samsung narrowly beat out Apple with 95 million smartphones shipped, compared to 93 million for its rival. Samsung’s year-over-year growth was an explosive 278 percent, while Apple nearly doubled the 47 million iPhones it shipped in 2010.

“Apple’s introduction of the 4S in the fourth quarter unleashed tremendous pent-up demand for the iPhone as consumers awaited the arrival of the latest model,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS. “This caused the company’s smartphone shipments to surge, allowing it to retake market leadership by a slight margin. However, Apple and Samsung continue to run neck and neck in global smartphone shipments, setting up a tight battle for leadership that will continue throughout 2012.”

Noting the paltry growth of Sony Ericsson and Motorola, two other major Android OS licensees, Mr. Lam said: “The relatively small growth of Sony Ericsson and Motorola may indicate that the Android smartphone market is becoming too crowded as the various licensees compete for limited consumer mindshare and shelf space.”