Samsung, as Apple and Nokia are all too aware, is on a hot streak. During the first quarter of 2012, Samsungs smartphones accounted for 40 percent of all Android-based phones sold globally, while no other Android-supporting vendor achieved better than a 10 percent representation, according to a May 16 report from Gartner.
Overall, smartphone sales rose 45 percent year-over-year, with 144.4 million units shipping during the first quarter of 2012. Lagging feature phone sales, however, caused the overall mobile phone market to decline by 2 percentits first decline since the second quarter of 2009, according to the firm.
Samsung overtook Nokia for the No. 1 spot, as IHS iSuppli said in an early estimate in April, shipping 86.6 million units to Nokias 83.2 million. Apple followed the pair, with shipments of 33.1 million iPhones, and behind it came ZTE, on shipments of 17.4 million units, and LG, with 14.7 million units.
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion finished in seventh place, behind Huawei but ahead of Motorola and Sony Mobile Communications, respectively.
While Android-running phones accounted for 56.1 percent of all smartphone sales, Gartner analysts believe that differentiation is becoming a challenge for manufacturers. Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha, among other executives, has spoken to this point, saying Motorola plans to release fewer but more differentiated devices. Likewise, a spokesperson for AT&T, at the launch of the HTC One X, said a focus on design, a strong camera and the collaboration with Beats Audio were ways HTC had looked to differentiate that device.
This is particularly true for smartphones based on the Android OS, where a strong commoditization trend is at work and most players are finding it hard to break the [mold], Anshul Gupta, a Gartner principal research analyst, said in the report.
At the high end, hardware features coupled with applications and services, are helping differentiation, but this is restricted to major players with intellectual-property assets, Gupta added. However, in the mid- to low-end segment, price is increasingly becoming the sole differentiator. This will only worsen with the entry of new players and the dominance of Chinese manufacturers, leading to increased competition, low profitability and scattered market share.
Strong Apple iPhone salesshipments increased by 96.2 percent year-over-yearcame with, thanks to China, Apples No. 2 market behind the United States. China accounted for sales of 5 million iPhones.
Additionally, Gartner added, On top of the sales through official carriers channels, there was an increase in transshipments from Hong Kong, where volume has been growing over the past year, to reach a sell-in of more than 3 million units.
With China Mobile, the worlds largest carrier, in talks with Apple to officially offer the iPhone, the importance of China to Apple, and the mobile industry on the whole, is likely to intensify.
Again showing their impact, China, and the Asia-Pacific region on the whole, were also contributors to the quarters overall lackluster results. While Chinese New Year generally helps to make the first quarter the strongest in Asia (again, a boon for the world market, which usually experiences an aggressive dip after the high of the fourth-quarter Western holidays), a lack of new phone launches from leading manufacturers caused users in Asia to delay upgrades, said Gartner, in the hope of better smartphone deals arriving later in the year.
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