IMS: Annual smartphone sales to reach 1 billion units by 2016; Apple, Samsung winners so far

More than 420 million smartphones will be sold around the world in 2011, accounting for 28% of total cell phone sales according to market research firm IMS Research. The firm sees the recent surge of more affordable smartphones as playing a major role in the continued growth of the market, and IMS analysts estimate that global smartphone sales will reach 1 billion devices by 2016 thanks to entry-level smart handsets. In recent months however, IMS’ data shows that Apple has made some of the largest gains in the space, accounting for 19% of global smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 16% in the same quarter last year. Of course Apple’s share continued to climb in the second quarter as well, as the company reported industry-leading sales of 20.4 million smartphones. The only company that made more impressive unit sales gains year-over-year in the first quarter was Samsung according to IMS; the South Korea-based vendor accounted for 13% of smartphones sold in the first quarter compared to just 3% in the same quarter in 2010. The biggest losers in the first quarter were Nokia, which slid from a 40% share in the first quarter last year to 24% in Q1 2010, and RIM, which dropped from 20% to 15% over the same period. The firm’s full press release follows below.

Global Smartphones Sales Will Top 420 Million Devices in 2011, Taking 28 Percent of all Handsets, According to IMS Research

Apple and Samsung see Strongest Growth as Nokia Fades

Austin, TX, July 27, 2011 – Sales of smartphones will exceed 420 million devices in 2011, accounting for nearly 28 percent of the entire global handset market, according to IMS Research, the leading independent provider of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry. With the introduction of more affordable “entry-level” smartphones, IMS Research predicts that annual sales will surpass one billion devices by the end of 2016, accounting for one of every two mobile handsets sold.

“But despite the higher margins for smartphones, and the seemingly insatiable consumer appetite for converged devices, it is clear that not all OEMS are equally positioned to capitalize on this market trend,” says Josh Builta, analyst in IMS’ Mobile Technologies Group. “For instance, LG, despite being the third largest OEM in the world, has offered a fairly limited smartphone portfolio in recent years, a factor that resulted in the company reaching less than a three percent share of the total smartphone market in 2010.”

At the same time Nokia saw its portion of smartphone market decline so dramatically that in early 2011 the company dropped the Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS. In 2Q 2011, Nokia reported smartphone sales fell to 16.7 million, down 34 percent from the same period in 2010.

“Clearly one of the key dynamics of the mobile handset competitive environment in recent years has been the inability of many traditional market leaders to recognize and adjust to the growing smartphone tier,” adds Builta, “The reasons for these failures vary and include everything from poorly designed and manufactured devices, unsatisfactory user interfaces, and portfolios that don’t offer products with a differentiating feature. These lapses have created opportunities for newer entrants to the market, which they have aggressively pursued.”

In recent years, no company has flourished in this environment as much as Apple. Apple’s 2Q 2011 results in which it reported record sales of more than 20 million iPhones indicates it can be expected to remain an influential presence in the market despite the increased competition.

However, Apple is not alone in its success. Of the traditional handset manufacturers, Samsung has demonstrated the best results in recent years. Capitalizing on its diverse portfolio – which includes devices using the company’s own bada operating system along with Android and Windows Mobile – as well as its highly popular Galaxy series, Samsung smartphone market share increased from about three percent in 1Q 2010 to over 13 percent in 1Q 2011. At the same time smaller, dedicated smartphone vendors such as HTC have seen their position rise dramatically.

According to Builta, “These companies are well positioned to benefit from the projected growth of the smartphone market in the future. Though the other OEMs are stepping up their efforts in the space, companies such as Apple, HTC and Samsung have a considerable amount of momentum. Catching them will not be an easy task.”

IMS Research examines and tracks quarterly handset and smartphone market shares in its Mobile Handset Market Intelligence Service & Database. A valuable tool for companies requiring 24/7 access to the most up-to-date information on the mobile market, this service also provides up-to-date information on cellular subscribers, handset shipments, and mobile handset feature penetration. Provided with the database access is the Quarterly Market report, which offers subscribers additional insight and analysis on recent developments in the mobile handset market.

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