HONG KONG (Dow Jones)--Apple Inc. (AAPL) overtook Samsung Electronics Co. (005930.SE) to take the crown as the world's biggest smartphone maker in the fourth quarter thanks to robust sales of its new iPhone 4S, but data from two research firms Friday showed that the South Korean company became the biggest smartphone brand for all of 2011, highlighting the intense competition as the two companies wrestle for the top spot.
Q4 2011 Global Smartphone Unit Shipments and Market Shares
Q4 2011 Smartphone Hightlights
- Apple ships 37.0 million smartphones in the fourth quarter and recaptures top spot as biggest global smartphone maker in the world, with a 23.9% share in Q4.
- Samsung ships 36.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, with a 23.5% share in Q4.
- Nokia ranks third with 12.6% of the smartphone market, though its share slipped from 28.1% a year earlier
Samsung of South Korea had displaced Apple, based in Cupertino, California, to take the No. 1 rank in smartphones in the July-September 2011 third quarter, after customers waited on the sidelines for the new iPhone 4S with voice recognition capability to hit the market. But Apple earlier this month reported record profit and sales for the quarter thanks in part to strong sales of iPhones. The company said it sold 37 million units. Samsung doesn't disclose smartphone sales figures, but research firm Strategy Analytics said Friday that Samsung shipped 36.5 million units during the October-December period, giving it a market share of 23.5%, slightly behind Apple's 23.9%.
Q3 2011 and Q3 2010 Global Smartphone Unit Shipments and Market Shares
The news comes as the two technology giants are embroiled in patent litigation across the globe after Apple accused Samsung last year of copying the iPhone and iPad designs. Samsung countersued, alleging Apple violated various patents related to its telecommunications standards.
Wayne Lam, senior analyst at market research firm IHS iSuppli said.
"After losing market leadership in the third quarter, Apple returned to the No. 1 rank in global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011 as consumers flocked to buy the newly introduced iPhone 4S. Meanwhile, based on strong sales of its broad line of smartphone products, Samsung become the world's largest smartphone brand for the entire year of 2011, marking the first time it has held this distinction."
Nokia Corp. (NOK), the world's biggest cellphone maker by volume, shipped 19.6 million smartphones in the quarter, putting it in third place with a market share of 12.6%. Nokia's share of the market slipped from 28.1% a year earlier as a lackluster touchcreen smartphone portfolio and limited presence in the large U.S. market caused market share losses, Strategy Analytics said.
Tom Kang, a director at Strategy Analytics said.
"Nokia's partnership with Microsoft will be very much in focus during 2012, and the industry will be watching closely to see how swiftly the two companies can expand in the high-value 4G LTE market that is rapidly emerging across the United States, Japan and elsewhere."
LTE, which stands for long-term evolution, is a fourth-generation wireless technology that promises faster downloads than 3G technology.
Strategy Analytics said global smartphone shipments grew 54% to a record 155 million units in the fourth quarter.
According to IHS iSuppli, Sony Ericsson ranked in fourth place with 6 million units, while Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. came in fifth place with 5 million units.
For all of 2011, Strategy Analytics said Samsung sold 97.4 million smartphones, giving it a share of 19.9%, ahead of Apple's 93 million units, or 19.0% share.
COMMENTARY: I love these smartphone wars don't you? Samsung is on the verge of losing its global smartphone market share lead and is also on the verge of losing its patent infringement lawsuit filed by Apple in 2010.