Apple Leads Smartphone Shipments

A recent report from International Data Corporation (IDC) confirms what most plugged-in observers already suspected—smartphone use is exploding. According to the report, Q4 shipments of the connected gadgets grew 54.7% year-over-year worldwide to 157.8 million units. The figures eclipsed IDC’s forecasted 40% increase. Looking at the growth in smartphone shipments on a full-year basis shows similar increases. In 2011 shipments totaled 491.4 million units a jump of 61.3% over 2010, but slightly behind the jump of 75.7% for 2010 compared with 2009.

“By the end of the quarter, one out of every three mobiles phones shipped worldwide was a smartphone,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. “The launch of Apple’s iPhone 4S played a key role in smartphone growth to capture pent-up demand, and smartphone launches from other vendors also provided a broad selection to meet varying preferences and budgets.”

“So-called ‘hero’ devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus and Apple’s iPhone 4S, garner the bulk of the attention heaped on the device type,” said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program. “But a growing number of sub-$250 device offerings, based on the Android operating system, have allowed Google’s hardware partners to grow smartphone volumes and expand the market concurrently.”

Looking at growth by individual vendors shows Apple leading Samsung in Q4 sales, but Samsung retaining the lead on a full year 2011 basis. In Q4 Nokia market share dropped 30.6% and Research In Motion (RIM) dropped 11%. All others increased.

Allthingsd.com writer Ina Fried notes that the dominance of Apple and Samsung is not just affecting the bottom players in the marketplace. The middle size companies are also getting hurt. “Not so long ago, it appeared that the rising tide would lift all smartphone boats,” says Fried. “HTC, in particular, was doubling sales year over year, and its growth seemed unstoppable. But now it appears that the wave is thrashing as many as it is helping. HTC has hit a wall; and plenty of other Android players, including Sony and Motorola, are struggling to keep pace with the leaders.”

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Journalist, entrepreneur, tech-a-phile, MusicRow magazine founder, lives in Nashville, TN. Twitter him @davidmross or read his non-music industry musings at Secrets Of The List

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