Nokia, Samsung, LG Electronics, ZTE and Apple all earned the distinction of being the top five smartphone vendors during the fourth quarter of 2010 and the year on whole, IDC reported Jan. 27. Notably absent from the list were Motorola, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion and HTC, each of which made the quarterly list a year ago.
With smartphone sales pushing to new highs, and aggressively affecting the overall mobile phone market, even the most established brands are now fighting for top billing."Change-up among the number four and five vendors could be a regular occurrence this year," Ramon Llamas, IDC senior research analyst, said in a statement. "Motorola, Research In Motion and Sony Ericsson, all vendors with a tight focus on the fast-growing smartphone market who had ranked among the top five worldwide vendors during 2010 are well within striking distance to move back into the top-five list."Thanks to strong smartphone sales - which was boosted by a strengthening economy and increasing numbers of affordable options - the worldwide mobile market reach a new quarterly high of 401.4 million units, up 17.9 percent from a year ago. By year's end, vendors shipped a cumulative 1.39 billion units in 2010, which was up 18.5 percent form the 1.17 billion units shipped during 2009."Feature phone users looking to do more with their devices will flock to smartphones in the years to come," said Llamas. "This trend will help drive the smartphone sub-market to grow 43.7 percent year over year in 2011."Though it dipped 2.4 percent year over year, Nokia remained the top-shipping vendor, shipping 123.7 million units during the quarter. Over the whole of 2010, however, its shipments were up 4.9 percent, on shipments of 453 million units, up from the 431.8 million units during 2009. Nokia attributed its quarterly slip to the intense competitive environment it faced, though it managed to increase its smartphone volume during the quarter by 38 percent. IDC added, however, that Nokia's average selling price per phone fell by 16 percent on a year-over-year basis.Coming up over Nokia's shoulder was the fast-moving Samsung, which sold 80.7 million units during the quarter and 280.2 million during the year."Samsung reached a new milestone in 4Q10, pushing through the 80 million unit threshold for the first time in the company's history and improving its profit margins for the second straight quarter," reported IDC. "Driving shipment volumes was the continued success of its Galaxy S smartphones, of which the company sold nearly 10 million units worldwide for the year."Helping the company in emerging markets, IDC added, were strong sales of its mass-market touch-screen phones - which it recently expanded by four.LG also passed a milestone during the quarter, passing 30 million units mark for a total of 30.6 million units. Its yearly total hit 116.7 million units, causing IDC to note that its "smartphone strategy is paying off."LG sold more than a million Optimus One smartphones in the device's first month of availability, and two new versions - the Optimus 2X and Optimus Black - will be arriving later this year. Still, said IDC, feature phones dominated its sales, and its "again portfolio" and lower prices leave the company "vulnerable to the competition."Finishing just ahead of Apple was lesser-known Chinese brand ZTE, which grabbed fourth place with sales of 16.8 million units during the quarter and 51.8 million for the year. While historically ZTE has concentrated on entry-level mid-range phones, "some of its recent success is directly attributable to its rapidly expanding smartphone line," wrote IDC, "such as the Android-based Blade and Racer devices."Despite a record quarter, Apple managed to slip to the fifth position, on shipments of 16.2 million units during the quarter and 47.5 million units during 2010. As Apple executives noted during the company's most recent earnings call, the iPhone maker could have sold even more devices had it been able to make them. With a CDMA version of the iPhone set to launch on the Verizon Wireless network Feb. 10, however, Apple COO Tim Cook said the company was "working around the clock to build more.""Mobile phone users are eager to swap out older devices for ones that handle data as well as voice, which is driving growth and replacement cycles," said IDC Senior Research Analyst Kevin Restivo, adding, as he has in earlier reports, that the mobile phone market "has the wind behind its sales."