Apple overtook Samsung in smartphone shipments in the last quarter of 2011, according to data from mobile analyst firm Juniper Research. Almost 25 percent of the 149 million smartphones shipped worldwide in the fourth quarter were iPhones.
However, while Samsung lost its top spot to Apple, the Korean giant has increased its market share fourfold since Q1 2010, from 4.7 percent to 21.7 percent. Samsung's rise is forcing Apple to continue offering older models to keep ahead, according to Juniper.
While Apple sold 4 million iPhone 4Ss within three days of launch, the company's return to top spot was partly driven by offering the iPhone 3GS -first launched in 2009 - at rock-bottom prices. Juniper analysts said they believe this was an effort by Apple to shore-up its defenses again a bombardment of standard and premium smartphones from Samsung. "The scale of Samsung's product range is saturating the market. Apple has had to counter Samsung's products like the Galaxy Ace in order to maintain the visibility of its brand," said Daniel Ashdown, a research analyst with Juniper.
While Apple and Samsung have traded places for the past three quarters, results of other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) were more muted. Taiwan-based HTC was the only other member of the top five to see significant year-on-year growth: Juniper estimated, prior to official data, that the company shipped 12.1 million smartphones in the fourth quarter.
Elsewhere, troubled BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's woes will be soothed somewhat as shipments remained steady year-on-year at 14.4 million, down just 0.7 percent.
The report said 2012 will be an important year for Nokia as it looks to fight back with a full year of Windows Phone 7 launches. The Finnish OEM's smartphone shipments were down 31 percent year over year in the fourth quarter.
More than 70 percent of consumers who intend to purchase a smartphone over the next six months will purchase an iPhone or a handset based on Google's Android operating system, according to a recent Yankee Group survey. Yankee expects the smartphone market will soar to more than 175 million devices by 2015, up from 97 million in 2011. Of the 14 percent of consumers who own a Windows Mobile-based device, only 9 percent of those asked said they would pick up a phone based on the new Windows Phone OS, the survey found.
Android enjoys an installed base of 39 percent in the United States, with 39 percent of respondents vowing to buy an Android handset in the next six months. Currently, 25 percent of respondents own an iPhone, but 35 percent of respondents said they are leaning toward purchasing an iPhone in the next six months. That means some 74 percent of U.S. consumers plan to acquire an Android or iPhone over the first half of 2012.