Gartner: Samsung steals Nokia's crown as global phone leader

Samsung and Android -- in the face of a 2 percent slowdown in global phone sales -- remain an unstoppable force, as Nokia and Apple are both put in their respective places.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Global mobile phone sales have shrunk by 2 percent in the first-quarter after poor sales and slower demand saw many phones left on store shelves.

In Q1 2011, Research analysts Gartner recorded 427.8 million devices sold; yet a year later to today and the figure has only dropped by around 10 million.

Nokia took the brunt of the market beating as Samsung swooped in to take the market share crown. Because Samsung invested heavily in Google's mobile operating system, Android also saw an increase in numbers.

Slower demand in the Asia-Pacific region saw the first significant drop in sales since 2009, reports Reuters. Often the first quarter is where the region takes most sales. The December holiday season often bumps the numbers for fourth-quarter results, while post-holiday sales discounts often makes up for the ever-expected depression during the first three months.

China saw a significant drop by 6 percent as consumers in particular wait for the next wave of high-end smartphones. Apple's iPhone is expected to be announced at WWDC 2012 in June.

Sister site CNET reports that Apple and China Mobile, the world's largest mobile network, are in talks to bring the iPhone to the network. It comes a few months after Apple's chief executive Tim Cook visited Beijing to discuss among other things bringing the smartphone to more than 660 million customers.

Gartner said Samsung had pinched the top-spot from Nokia during the period, who had reigned over the cellphone market for more than a decade.

Samsung sold 86.6 million devices --- including cellphones and smartphones --- and saw its global market share rise to 20.7 percent, up from 16.1 percent a year ago.

Nokia sold 83.2 million handsets and saw its global market share drop to 19.8 percent from 25.1 percent the year before. The company has suffered a loss but is far from out of the race yet. It remains firmly in second place eclipsing other major mobile phone makers and even other Android partners.

Apple, on the other hand, fell way behind with 33.1 million handsets, but saw its global market share double to 7.9 percent, up from from 3.9 percent last year. In total, 144 million smartphones were sold during the quarter, up by nearly double from the same three month period in 2011. The price of smartphones has remained vastly steady, but also phone makers are lowering the smartphone bar meaning lesser-powerful and lower-priced devices are taken into the overall rankings.

Nokia has accomplished one good thing. In the space of a year, the Finnish phone maker has reduced Symbian's share from 27.7 percent to 8.6 percent.

Alongside this, Apple's iOS share rose by 6 percentage points to 29.9 percent, while Google's Android powered more than 56 percent of all smartphones, up from 36.4 percent a year ago.

Gartner said the slow start makes the rest of the year look somewhat bleak, and will knock down its full-year outlook by 20 million devices.

Samsung in the lead, check. Android in the lead, check. If you see a recurring pattern here --- the killer combination of Samsung and Android --- you're not the only one.

Image credit: Are Sjoberg/Flickr, via CNET.


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