Apple loses ground to Android and Samsung in Q3

Samsung has shipped twice as many smartphones as Apple in the past year, but Microsoft and the coming holiday season should shift the landscape

On both the smartphone and tablet fronts, Apple has lost ground to rivals this past quarter, according to the latest market data from Strategy Analytics and ABI. In the tablet world, Apple has seen iOS's market share drop from 65 percent to 57 percent, while Android is now the platform of choice on 41 percent of tablets, up from 29 percent a year ago, Strategy Analytics reported.

As for smartphones, Apple enjoyed a 58 percent boost in shipments year over year, from 17.1 million to 26.9 million, according to ABI Research. However, Samsung's smartphone shipments soared 109 percent year over year, from 26.5 million to 55.5 million.

Notably, the battle for mobile supremacy is far from over. First off, the holiday season is approaching, so time will tell which vendors' wares end up being the must-have techie gift of the year. Second, Microsoft is on the brink of rolling out its shiny new smartphone and tablet platforms, which could shift the playing field.

In total, global tablet shipments hit 24.7 million units during Q3, up from 17.2 million year over year. The represents 43 percent annual growth, compared with 289 percent annual growth in Q2 2011. According to Strategy Analytics, this was the weakest growth rate since the modern tablet industry began in Q2 2010.

"Demand for tablets slowed due to ongoing economic uncertainty and consumers holding off purchases in anticipation of multiple new models, like the iPad Mini, during the upcoming Q4 holiday season," King said.

Overall, Apple shipped a "disappointing" 14 million iPads worldwide, according to Peter King, director at Strategy Analytics, seeing its market share drop from 64 percent a year ago to 57 percent. King said that Apple's slowdown allowed the Android community to make gains, and Android's global share of the tablet market now stands at a record 41 percent. No single Android vendor has come close to Apple in terms of volume, but "the collective weight of dozens of hardware partners, such as Asus, Samsung, and Nook, is helping Google's Android platform to register a growing presence in tablets," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

Microsoft, meanwhile, managed to capture a niche 2 percent global tablet share, holding steady year over year at 400,000 shipments. The imminent release of the Windows 8 platform could drive Microsoft tablet volumes higher during the holiday season.

Meanwhile, smartphone-market growth has slowed down as well: Between Q3 of 2010 and 2011, it had grown 44 percent to 117.1 million. This year, it has grown just 32.8 percent, up to 155.5 million.

Samsung emerged as the smartphone leader in terms of overall shipments, having successfully delivered more than twice as many smartphones as Apple this past quarter (55.5 million compared to Apple's 26.9 million). "Samsung looks to be running away from the pack, while Apple's new product portfolio continues to eat into its decreasing gross margins," said senior analyst Michael Morgan. "Apple will need to ship over 94 million smartphones in Q4 if it wants to match its 2011 shipment growth of 96 percent."

Nokia has had a particularly rough year for hawking its smartphones, which shipments dropping by 38 percent from Q2 2012 to 6.3 million. ABI attributed that decline to the fact that Nokia's Lumia line cannot be upgraded to the upcoming Windows Phone 8 software release. "With competing OEMs looking to take advantage of the WP8 platform, Nokia will have trouble remaining a top ten smartphone OEM in Q4," according to the research company.

Meanwhile, LG enjoyed a respectable 22.8 percent bump in shipments year over year, from 5.7 million to 7 million. Up-and-comer ZTE, though, saw the most growth: a 168 percent bounce from 3.1 million shipments to 8.3 million year over year. Huawei, meanwhile, shipped 52 percent more smartphones year over year, increasing from 5 million to 7.6 million.

Then there's struggling RIM, which saw its shipments dwindle by 37.2 percent, dropping from 11.8 million shipped units to 7.4 million. HTC, too, has had a rough year: Its shipments are down by more than 56 percent, from 13.2 million to 6 million.

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