Samsung Grows Lead Over Apple, Smartphones Now Majority of Sales

Samsung could barely keep up with demand for the Galaxy S III during the second quarter, according to Gartner. Samsung sold 90.4 million phones overall, more than half of which were smartphones, while the market sagged.

Samsung increased its lead over Apple and the rest of the mobile market during the second quarter of 2012, Gartner reported Aug. 14. While the overall market declined 2.3 percent year-over-year, on shipments of 419 million units-just a hair down from the 419.1 million units that shipped during the first quarter, by Gartner's data-Samsung's sales were up nearly 30 percent.

Samsung had sales of its Galaxy S III to thank, as its big display delivered big-time sales. The S III was the best-selling Android smartphone during the quarter and Samsung could have sold even more, "but for product shortages," reported Gartner. Samsung moved 90.4 million units during the quarter, and 50.4 percent of them, or 45.6 million units, were smartphones.

"In the race to be top smartphone manufacturer in 2012, Samsung has consistently increased its lead over Apple, and its open OS market share increased to one-and-a-half times that of Apple in the second quarter of 2012," Gartner Principal Analyst Anshul Gupta said in a statement.

Shipments of Apple iPhones grew 47.4 percent year-over-year but fell 12.6 percent compared with the first quarter-28.9 million units, versus 33.1 million. Apple executives have pointed to anticipation for the iPhone 5 as a reason for lower-than-expected phone sales. By The Wall Street Journal's count, the most recent quarter was only the second time in 39 quarters that Apple has announced results that failed to meet expectations.

Depending on the launch date of the iPhone 5-Sept. 21, following a Sept. 12 introduction, is the prevailing guess-Apple could experience another weaker-than-usual quarter, wrote Gupta, though the launch of the new iPhone, as well as a major push of 3G devices from Chinese manufacturers, is expected to "drive the smartphone market upward" in the second half of the year.

Nokia held the No. 2 position, between leader Samsung and third-place Apple, with shipments of 83.4 million units. While this was down 14.8 percent from a year ago, unlike Apple, Nokia's share of the market rose (if ever so slightly) quarter-on quarter, from 19.8 percent to 19.9, while Apple's fell from 7.9 to 6.9.

"Declining smartphone sales is worsening Nokia's overall position, as it had already lost the No. 2 position to Samsung in the previous quarter and is facing reduced profitability due to continuous declining sales of premium smartphones," said Gupta. Though he added that, in its quarter-to-quarter growth, Nokia "succeeded, to a certain extent."

Android's share of market-and while it's tempting to say others beside Samsung contributed, no other Android vendor commanded even 5 percent of the market-rose to 64.1 percent during the second quarter, up from 43.4 percent a year ago and 56.1 percent the quarter before.

Apple's iOS, in second place, dipped from 22.9 percent the quarter before to 18.8 percent, while Symbian fell to 5.9 percent from 8.6 percent the quarter before and 22.1 percent a year ago. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, with the fourth-most-popular operating system, shipped 8 million units for a 5.3 percent share, down from 11.7 percent a year ago and 6.9 percent during the first quarter.

While a challenging economic environment and upcoming smartphone announcements stunted the quarter, the news remains bleak for feature phones.

"Feature phones will continue to [feel] pressure," said Gupta.