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Smartphones are flying off the shelves, IDC says

May 6, 2011 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Smartphone sales were up nearly 80 percent during the first quarter of 2011, which saw 99.6 million units shipped, says IDC. As choices migrated from mostly high-end units to more mid-range and entry-level offerings, Samsung — whose offerings span the market — grew the fastest, the research firm added.

According to excerpts IDC released yesterday from its latest Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the worldwide smartphone market grew 79.7 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2011, "driven by a combination of vendors releasing highly anticipated models, widespread availability of older smartphones at lower prices, and sustained end-user demand."

Smartphone vendors shipped a total of 99.6 million units in 1Q11, nearly double from the 55.4 million units in the first quarter of 2010, the research firm says.

"Conditions in the smartphone market are creating a perfect storm for sustained smartphone growth," stated Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. "First, vendors are increasingly emphasizing smartphones as the key to their own growth. Second, selection has proliferated from mostly high-end devices to include more mid-range and entry-level offerings.

In yesterday's tranche of information from its Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, IDC provided vendor sales rankings, but no operating system specifics — continuing the ongoing mystery of just how well Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system might be selling.

Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst, stated, "The rise of Android as a prominent mobile operating system has allowed several suppliers to gain share quickly. Also, the relatively nascent state of smartphone adoption globally means there is ample room for several suppliers to comfortably co-exist, at least for the short term."

Vendor 1Q11
1Q11 Market
1Q10 Market
Nokia 24.2 24.3% 21.5 38.8% 12.6%
Apple 18.7 18.7% 8.7 15.7% 114.4%
Research In Motion 13.9 14.0% 10.6 19.1% 31.1%
Samsung 10.8 10.8% 2.4 4.3% 350.0%
HTC 8.9 8.9% 2.7 4.9% 229.6%
Others 23.2 23.2% 9.5 17.1% 143.7%
Total 99.6 100.0% 55.4 100.0% 79.7%

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, First Quarter 2011 (Preliminary Results)
(shipments in millions of units; source IDC)

The table above lists vendors in the order of what, according to IDC, was the number of smartphone units they shipped during the first quarter of 2011. We'll discuss them below, however, in order of their year over year gains.

Samsung posted the largest year over year gain of any vendor on IDC's list. The research firm stated, "With a multiple operating system strategy in place, Samsung has been able to grow its smartphone portfolio to meet the needs of a diverse market. The company's Android-based smartphones, including high-end Galaxy S devices and mass-market Galaxy Ace and Galaxy mini devices, were responsible for the majority of this success, but "Bada-powered Wave devices and Windows Phone 7 devices continued to gain traction."

HTC posted yet another record shipment volume, nearly surpassing the ten million unit mark for the first time, IDC says. Multiple new devices "helped HTC differentiate itself further in an increasingly crowded market," including the Facebook-optimized Salsa and ChaCha, the Inspire 4G, the WiMAX-enabled EVO Shift 4G, and the LTE-enabled Thunderbolt.

Apple reached a new record shipment volume in a single quarter, and inched closer to market leader Nokia with fewer than six million units separating the two companies, says IDC. According to the research firm, Apple recorded triple-digit growth in both the U.S. and Greater Chinese, and also enlisted South Korean Telecom and Saudi Telecom as carrier providers of the iPhone.

Research In Motion (RIM) remained solidly in third place when it comes to shipments, but grew its presence outside of its home territory of North America, says IDC. RIM has launched several 3G devices to the market, and recently announced two new BlackBerry smartphones running on its new BlackBerry 7 OS, but the majority of shipment volumes have been comprised of older, lower-cost devices, the research firm adds.

Finally, Nokia maintained its leadership position in the smartphone market, despite announcing its intentions to move from Symbian to Windows Phone as its primary smartphone operating system. IDC noted that demand for Symbian-powered smartphones remained strong within Nokia's traditionally strongest markets of EMEA and Asia/Pacific, and the company continues to announce more devices running on Symbian, including the E6 and the X7.

Still, the research firm added, as Nokia transitions from Symbian to Windows Phone, it may find itself in danger of ceding market share as the competition ramps up smartphone production.

Jonathan Angel can be followed at

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