Samsung Ends Nokia's 14-Year Reign as Global Mobile Phone Leader

Samsung has ended Nokia's 14-year reign as the global leader of mobile phone shipments, following a record-high first quarter for Samsung. Its Galaxy smartphones, however, couldn’t top Apple’s iPhone shipments.

Apple ruled the smartphone roost during the first quarter, but Samsung overtook Nokia in the overall mobile phone market, ending Nokia€™s 14-year run as the global leader.

Samsung shipped 92 million cell phones during the first quarter, according to IHS iSuppli, compared with Nokia€™s 83 million units.

Apple, meanwhile, shipped 35 million iPhones, compared with Samsung€™s 32 million Galaxy smartphones and Nokia€™s 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.

€œSamsung€™s 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 industry€™s expansion over the previous decade,€ Fogg continued. €œSamsung 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. Apple€™s loss was the smallest, at 5 percent, followed by Samsung€™s 11 percent loss and Nokia€™s more notable 39 percent quarter-to-quarter decline.

Still, Samsung€™s 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.

Samsung€™s mobile device unit posted 86 percent year-on-year-growth, and with the introduction of €œthe next Galaxy device€ in London on May 3, it said in its earnings statement, €œSamsung is expected to continue its strong growth momentum in the second quarter.€

Samsung Senior Vice President Robert Yi noted, €œDespite 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 Samsung€™s display panel business, which includes 3D panels and grew in €œthe 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, they€™re business partners when it comes to chips and displays.

Still, it was Samsung€™s smartphones that led its quarter€™s success.

€œSamsung is reaping the rewards of strong execution in product design, distribution and marketing,€ said IHS€™ Fogg. €œThe 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 €œfront line€ in the war between Google€™s Android and Apple€™s iOS. While LG, HTC, Sony and Motorola are all backing Android, the difficulty each has had competing with Samsung speaks to said €œboldness and innovation.€