IDC Confirms Apple's Smartphone Crown as Smartphone Shipments Exceed 100 Million

Android Becomes World's Most Popular Mobile Platform

by Anton Shilov
08/05/2011 | 12:56 PM

International Data Corp. (IDC), one of the world's most respected market research firm, this week confirmed that Apple became the world's largest supplier of smartphones in the second quarter of 2011. Indirectly, IDC confirmed that Google Android officially became the world's most popular operating system (OS) for advanced handsets.


Different vendors shipped 106.5 million smartphone units in Q2 2011 compared to 64.4 million units in the second quarter of 2010. The 65.4% growth was on par with IDC's forecast of 67.3% for the quarter and below the 84.0% year-over-year growth in Q1 2011. During the second quarter of 2011 Apple, the company which entered the market just four years ago, became the largest maker of smartphones.

"The smartphone market crowned a new leader in Q2 2011, and its name is Apple. Ever since the first iPhone launched in 2007, Apple has made market-setting strides in hardware, software, and channel development to grab mindshare and market share. Demand has been so strong that even models that have been out for one or two years are still being sought out. With an expected refresh later this year, volumes are set to reach higher levels," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's mobile phone technology and trends team.

Apple's success can be directly attributed to its distribution (more than 200 carriers in more than 200 countries), increased manufacturing capacity, and solid demand within emerging and developed markets from both consumers and business users. Apple's emergence as the number one smartphone vendor worldwide comes at a time when former worldwide leader Nokia is in the midst of a major transition. However, Apple has yet to top Nokia's single-quarter volume record of 28.1 million units. But given Apple's momentum in the smartphone market, it may not be a question of whether Apple will beat that milestone, but when.

While the success of Apple is unquestionable, shipments of smartphones by Samsung and HTC - the lion's share of which are handsets powered by Google Android - 29 million clearly shows that the Android operating system has clearly become the world's most popular operating system. Given the fact that Android-based phones are available from LG Electronics, Motorola and many others, the Android has most probably beaten the record of 28.1 million handsets per quarter set by Nokia's Symbian.

Samsung realized the largest year-over-year growth of any vendor among the top five, and key to its continued success was the global popularity of its flagship Galaxy S smartphones. What originally began as a series of high-end smartphones has proliferated well into the mass-market, but has not strayed too far from its high-end roots. Moreover, its steady cadence of device releases and updates has kept Samsung's smartphones well out in front of the competition. Samsung's Bada-powered smartphones likewise grew, while demand for its Windows Phone smartphones has cooled off.

Nokia ceded the number one position for the first time in the history of IDC's Mobile Phone Tracker, with smartphone volumes dipping below the 20 million unit mark for the first time since Q3 2009. Even as the company released new smartphones running on Symbian^3, demand for its products running on the aged Symbian platform has shifted to other devices. At the same time, Nokia must be considered as a company in transition, as it recently unveiled its first MeeGo-powered smartphone and Windows Phone-powered smartphones, designated as the primary operating system for Nokia moving forward, have yet to reach the market.

Research In Motion posted the lowest year-over-year growth of all the vendors in the top five, but still shipped enough BlackBerry smartphones to be the number four vendor worldwide. The company has released only a few new models so far this year, leaving the bulk of its shipments to be comprised of older, less expensive models. That has allowed its competitors to grab mindshare and market share with multiple new models. In addition, many vendors have targeted business users with enterprise-grade smartphones, which have long been RIM's stronghold. Still, demand for BlackBerry smartphones remained healthy in the face of competition.

HTC marked another upward quarter, having launched and announced several new smartphones to the market. These featured 3D displays and 4G speeds, attesting to HTC's ability to bring devices with the latest and forward-thinking technologies. For a company that got its start providing carrier-branded smartphones, HTC's success at building a strong and readily identifiable brand stems directly from a broad and deep selection of devices, a steady stream of device releases, and a warm reception among carriers and end-users. With a goal of shipping more than 13 million units in Q3 2011, HTC is well poised to reach its goal of shipping 50 million units for the year.

IDC maintains that the worldwide smartphone market will grow 55.0% over 2010.