3G, 4G Handsets to Claim More Than 50% of Handsets in 2012: ABI

The world's top tier smartphone manufacturers are focusing their efforts on emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil.

In the second half of 2011, tier one smartphone vendors such as Samsung, Apple and HTC began redoubling efforts to promote their smartphone line-up to upwardly mobile, aspirational smartphone owners in emerging markets, according to a report from IT analytics firm ABI Research. In the study, "Mobile Device Shipment Market Data," the company notes Samsung, with its varied smartphone segmentation strategy, has been making substantial inroads into the emerging country smartphone market.

Apple is expanding sales channels in emerging markets, with greater success in China than it's having in India, but is also targeting South American markets such as Brazil, the report found. Meanwhile, smartphone manufacturer HTC is gaining traction in China, but developed markets such as North America and Europe continue to be the mainstay of its "ship into" markets. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM), despite its weakness in apps-capable smartphone markets, continues to do well in messaging-centric emerging markets such as Indonesia.

"As the festive cheer of the holiday season dies away, the mood among handset vendors remains quietly confident regarding 2012," said Jake Saunders, ABI's vice president of forecasting. "The outlook will yield growth in the order of 8 percent, netting 1.67 billion handsets shipped worldwide by the end of 2012. Particularly notable is for the first time, 3G and 4G handset shipments will capture more than 50 percent of total handsets shipped."

Nokia, which recently partnered with Microsoft on Windows Phone 7 handsets, hopes to benefit from the platform's Lumia series launches in India (Dec-2011) and China (in 1Q-2012). The North American handset market, driven primarily by smartphones, is proving oblivious to the Euroland debt crisis. North America is estimated to have closed 2011 with 228 million handsets shipped, for a year-on-year (YoY) growth of 14 percent, the region's highest YoY growth in more than five years.

"North America may only represent 15 percent of feature and smartphone units shipped globally, but due to the high proportion of high-end smartphone sales, it constitutes 40 percent of total smartphones sold by value,"said Kevin Burden, vice president and practice director of mobile devices at ABI. "It underscores what is at stake in the patent battles between Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Google, HTC, Microsoft, and even British Telecom."

The study, part of ABI's Smartphone and Mobile Device Research Service tracks the global, regional and country-level markets for smartphones and mobile handsets, and researches the development of the industry's enabling technologies.

The service delivers detailed quarterly tracking and forecasts for handsets and smartphones, and includes tracking of cellular modems and ultra-mobile device segments so the that each segment's impact on the others is visible. The service also delivers a holistic view of the mobile device landscape by tracking the key device segments that compete for the mobile communication, entertainment and computing cycles of wireless subscribers.