Although sales of Apple's iPhone 5 accounted for just a week-long stretch of IT research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report for the third quarter, the aggressive rollout of the device resulted in more than 5 million iPhones sold in the first weekend of availability, helping buoy Apple's shipment totals in that period.
The worldwide mobile phone market grew 2.4 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2012 (3Q12), driven by strong sales of iPhone models and Samsung handsets. Vendors shipped a total of 444.5 million mobile phones in 3Q12 compared to 434.1 million units in the third quarter of 2011, according to the report.
Beleaguered handset manufacturer Nokia, once the world leader, saw sales decline further and exited the top five for the first time since IDC's tracking was established in 2004. The company was replaced by BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM), which is itself struggling to compete. Worldwide smartphone market vendors, aided by vendors such as Huawei in China, shipped 179.7 million units in 3Q12 compared to 123.7 million units in 3Q11. The 45.3 percent year-over-year growth was slightly above IDC's forecast of 45.2 percent for the quarter.
"Nokia's share losses have meant gains for competitors," IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker senior research analyst Kevin Restivo said in a statement. "The company's transition away from Symbian-powered smartphones to ones shipped with Windows Phone has left ample opportunity for rivals to steal share away from Nokia over the past 18 months. However, the smartphone market is still relatively nascent, which means there's room for multiple vendors and operating systems to flourish, including Nokia."
Samsung continued to lead the worldwide smartphone market by more than double the total volume of its next closest competitor, Apple. The company captured 31 percent worldwide market share in the third quarter, the first time since 4Q09 that a single company achieved that milestone. Growth was fueled largely by strong sales of its flagship Galaxy S III handset and a slew of popular smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system (OS).
The storm of criticism surrounding Apple’s sub-par maps application, which replaced Google Maps as the standard navigation application, failed to dent sales in the iPhone 5, which sold more than 5 million units sold in the first weekend of availability. A larger screen and 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity drove consumer interest in the device, and Apple overall sold 26.9 million units in the third quarter, finishing nearly flat from the previous quarter.
The report noted RIM's installed base, which topped 80 million active users during the quarter, provides further evidence of the company's widespread presence globally. However, the report warned that without a new flagship BlackBerry model ready for the lucrative holiday shopping season, the company’s position as a top vendor would come under "tremendous" pressure from competing companies. In addition, RIM posted the second-highest year-over-year decline of any of the leading vendors, although the report noted shipment volumes appear to have flattened.
"Nokia is not the only smartphone vendor in transition," IDC Mobile Phone team research manager Ramon Llamas said in a statement. "Research In Motion, although still a market leader, expects to start shipping its first BB10 devices in 2013. Motorola, once the No. 3 smartphone vendor worldwide, is redirecting itself under its parent company Google. These are just two vendors among many that feel the competitive pressure of Samsung and Apple, but are striving to create multiple points of differentiation to assert upward pressure."