Apple ruled the smartphone roost during the first quarter, but Samsung overtook Nokia in the overall mobile phone market, ending Nokias 14-year run as the global leader.
Samsung shipped 92 million cell phones during the first quarter, according to IHS iSuppli, compared with Nokias 83 million units.
Apple, meanwhile, shipped 35 million iPhones, compared with Samsungs 32 million Galaxy smartphones and Nokias 12 million smartphones. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion finished fourth, moving 11 million BlackBerry smartphones, followed by LG Electronics, with shipments of 4 million smartphones.
Samsungs surpassing Nokia for cell phone market leadership represents not only a changing of the guard among handset brands but also a fundamental shift in the structure of the wireless market, Ian Fogg, an IHS analyst, said in a statement.
"Cell phone market growth is now being generated exclusively by the smartphone segment, and not by the feature phones, entry-level cell phones and ultra-low-cost handsets that had fueled the industrys expansion over the previous decade, Fogg continued. Samsung has successfully ridden the wave of smartphone adoption to attain market leadership. Meanwhile, Nokia is in the midst of transitioning its smartphone strategy, resulting in declining shipments for the company.
Actually, coming off 2011 fourth-quarter holiday sales, every manufacturer posted a dip in the 2012 first quarter. Apples loss was the smallest, at 5 percent, followed by Samsungs 11 percent loss and Nokias more notable 39 percent quarter-to-quarter decline.
Still, Samsungs smartphone growth helped it to achieve a fiscal first quarter that set a record high, with a year-over-year revenue increase of 22 percent, the company announced April 27.
Samsungs mobile device unit posted 86 percent year-on-year-growth, and with the introduction of the next Galaxy device in London on May 3, it said in its earnings statement, Samsung is expected to continue its strong growth momentum in the second quarter.
Samsung Senior Vice President Robert Yi noted, Despite difficult business environments, including seasonal low demand for major products such as PCs and TVs amid a global economic slowdown, we achieved record quarterly results based on our differentiated products and technology leadership.
Part of that differentiated mix was Samsungs display panel business, which includes 3D panels and grew in the mid-20 percent range on-year, thanks, in large part, to Apple. Despite Samsung and Apple being competitors in the device market and combatants in multiple courtrooms, theyre business partners when it comes to chips and displays.
Still, it was Samsungs smartphones that led its quarters success.
Samsung is reaping the rewards of strong execution in product design, distribution and marketing, said IHS Fogg. The company has been bold and innovative with handset form factors, featuring differentiated handsets such as the Galaxy Note with its sizable 5-inch display, and a wide range of handsets in every other conceivable screen size.
The IHS report described the Samsung-Apple battle as representing the front line in the war between Googles Android and Apples iOS. While LG, HTC, Sony and Motorola are all backing Android, the difficulty each has had competing with Samsung speaks to said boldness and innovation.