Samsung led both the smartphone and overall handsets market in the fourth quarter, though analysts' estimates of shipments and market share varied.
The South Korean company shipped 106 million handsets in the fourth quarter of which 60 million were smartphones, ABI Research said Thursday. Samsung had a 31 percent share of smartphone shipments in comparison to Apple's 24.5 percent share, the research firm said.
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Apple shipped 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter, but its hyper-growth has ended, and market share is expected to peak at 22 percent in 2013, ABI said. "Unless Apple is willing to trade iPhone margins for low cost iPhone shipments, Apple's handset market share will become dependent on customer loyalty," it said. Apple is rumored to be planning low-end versions of the iPhone.
Nokia shipped 86.3 million handsets and 6.6 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, while RIM's shipments of smartphones declined to 6.9 million. Chinese vendor ZTE shipped 20.7 million handsets and 11.2 million smartphones in the quarter, ABI said.
The share of smartphones in total mobile phones shipments was the highest in the quarter, according to research firm IDC. About 219 million smartphones were shipped in the quarter, accounting for 45 percent of all mobile phone shipments, it said.
Samsung had a 29 percent share of the smartphone market to Apple's 22 percent and Nokia's 3 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. Nokia's portfolio improved with new models like Lumia 920, which runs the Windows Phone operating system, but the company still lacks a "true hero model" that can compete effectively with the iPhone or Samsung S3, it said.
In total mobile phone shipments, Samsung had 24 percent share to second-place Nokia's 19 percent, and Apple's 10.6 percent of the 451 million units shipped in the fourth quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.
IDC has, however, ranked Huawei with shipments of 10.8 million units and a market share of 4.9 percent as the third largest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter, after Samsung and Apple. It is ahead of Sony with 4.5 percent share and ZTE with 4.3 percent share, according to IDC. Nokia ranked 10 in the fourth quarter in smartphone shipments, with Sony, Huawei and ZTE in the top five, said Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics' global wireless practice.
Global smartphone shipments grew 38 percent annually from 157 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 217 million in the same quarter in 2012, said Strategy Analytics.
The research firm is however seeing a slowdown in global smartphone shipment growth. Global smartphone shipments for the full year reached about 700 million units in 2012, from about 490 million units in 2011, but global shipment growth slowed from 64 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2012 as penetration of smartphones began to mature in developed regions such as North America and Western Europe, it said.
Nokia, the number two in market share in overall mobile phones, saw global shipments fall 20 percent from 417 million units in 2011 to 335.6 million in 2012, according to Strategy Analytics. It saw its market share of the mobile phone market drop to 19 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 from 25.8 in the previous year.