by Anton Shilov
04/26/2013 | 01:00 PM
The worldwide mobile phone market grew 4% year over year in the seasonally slow first quarter of 2013 (Q1 2013) as smartphones out-shipped feature phones for the first time. This happened as companies like Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Huawei and other dramatically improved shipments of smartphones. By contrast, Apple, which is now the No. 3 mobile phone supplier in the world, increased smartphones shipments only slightly.
"Phone users want computers in their pockets. The days where phones are used primarily to make phone calls and send text messages are quickly fading away. As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker.
According to the International Data Corp., vendors shipped a total of 418.6 million mobile phones in Q1 2013 compared to 402.4 million units in the first quarter of 2012 and 483.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012.
In the worldwide smartphone market, vendors shipped 216.2 million units in Q1 2013, which marked the first time more than half (51.6%) the total phone shipments in a quarter were smartphones. The market grew 41.6% compared to the 152.7 million units shipped in Q1 2012, but 5.1% lower than the 227.8 million units shipped in Q4 2012.
"In addition to smartphones displacing feature phones, the other major trend in the industry is the emergence of Chinese companies among the leading smartphone vendors. A year ago, it was common to see previous market leaders Nokia, BlackBerry (then Research In Motion), and HTC among the top five. While those companies have been in various stages of transformation since, Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE as well as Coolpad and Lenovo, have made significant strides to capture new users with their respective Android smartphones," said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's mobile phone team.
Samsung maintained the position it held at the end of 2012: the undisputed leader in the worldwide smartphone market. By the end of Q1 2013, Samsung shipped more units than the next four vendors combined. The company revealed its highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4 with new features including display, camera, WiFi, and security innovations. What remains to be seen is how Samsung's new Tizen-powered smartphones will look and feel later this year, and fit into the company's overall smartphone portfolio.
Apple's smartphone shipment volume hit a new first-quarter high thanks in part to the iPhone 5, with volume growing 6.6% year over year. However, the last time the iPhone maker posted a single-digit year-over-year growth rate was Q3 2009. The iPhone maker has held the second spot in the smartphone rankings for the past five quarters. Apple's mix of models shipped to market is increasingly diversified as it tries to reach new buyers.
LG Electronics returned to the smartphone Top 5 after a two-quarter absence, reaching record-high shipments in the process. Its smartphone volume for the quarter was driven in large part by its 3G smartphone portfolio, namely the L series and the Nexus 4. LTE-enabled devices, including the Optimus G series, also contributed to its success. LG hopes to continue its upward trajectory with the launch of the F and L series targeting the mid-range and entry-level segments.
Huawei has shown significant improvement from where it was a year ago, when it offered a handful of Ascend smartphones and had more limited presence outside the Asia/Pacific region. Since then Huawei has decreased its dependence on rebranded feature phones while growing its Ascend portfolio to address multiple customer segments with more branded smartphone offerings. The company nearly doubled its unit shipments to regions outside of Asia/Pacific this past quarter when compared to Q1 2012.
ZTE's Q1 2013 performance continued the trends established last year, with a strong showing in Asia/Pacific and North America, but a small presence in EMEA and Latin America despite its previous success with low-end feature phones there. With a target of increasing smartphone revenue by 30% this year, ZTE will try to grow in North America and Europe. In China, where increasing price pressure has challenged vendors to grow profitably, ZTE will emphasize its higher-price products. In addition, ZTE will be among the first companies to launch a Firefox-powered smartphone this year.