Apple and Samsung battled throughout 2011 for the No. 1 spot in global smartphone shipments. That battle will continue into 2012.
Apple retook the No. 1 spot in global
smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a new report
from research firm IHS.
In doing so, Apple managed to knock
Samsung out of the top-ranked position it held in the third quarter. From store
shelves to courtrooms, the two companies are locked in a vicious battle for
"Apple's introduction of the
[iPhone] 4S in the fourth quarter unleashed tremendous pent-up demand for the
iPhone as consumers awaited the arrival of the latest model," Wayne Lam,
an IHS analyst, wrote in a statement accompanying that research note. "This
caused the company's smartphone shipments to surge, allowing it to retake
market leadership by a slight margin."
That sets up Apple and Samsung for a
grand battle in 2012, one where victory-or at least the top spot in global
smartphone shipments-will hinge on the success or failure of two very different
strategies. Samsung will almost certainly opt to continue its approach from
2011, which Lam defines as "offering a complete line of smartphone
products, spanning a variety of price points, features and operating systems."
Chances are likewise excellent that Apple will maintain its own longtime
stratagem: Market a single current-generation "hero device," with
price cuts to its limited line of older smartphones.
Right now, Apple's hero device is the
iPhone 4S. It's widely expected, however, that the company will release an
iPhone 5 in either the summer or fall timeframe. According to current rumors,
the next iPhone will deviate radically from its predecessors, with a larger
screen and perhaps a more powerful processor.
Meanwhile, Samsung is reportedly
prepping its own hero device for 2012, the Galaxy S III. But that's just one of the
multiple smartphones offered by the manufacturer. Google is prepping its next
major upgrade to Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, which could bring the platform
more on parity with Apple's iOS. And the Android Marketplace continues to fill
with third-party apps, the better to battle toe-to-toe with Apple's App
In other words, Apple's spectacular
fourth quarter may have given it momentum heading into 2012-but Samsung (and
other Android device makers) won't let Cupertino solidify those gains without a
fight. With regard to the broader mobile-device arena, Apple's iPad will also
compete with Samsung's Galaxy Tab franchise (and other Android tablets) for
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.