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Mobile phone sales shrank in 2012 mainly on Nokia and LG’s big declines

Published Feb 13th, 2013 8:55PM EST
Mobile Phone Sales Shrink

For all we’ve heard about the “mobile revolution,” in recent years, it may surprise you to learn that mobile phone sales actually shrank in 2012. Gartner reports that total handset sales totaled 1.75 billion units in 2012, a slight drop from the 1.77 billion handsets sold in 2011. Although this may seem puzzling, the reason for this decline becomes clear once Gartner breaks down handset sales by vendors and shows that Nokia (NOK) and LG (066570) are primarily to blame. Overall, Nokia sold 334 million phones in 2012, a 21% decline from the 422 million phones it sold in 2011, while LG sold 58 million mobile phones in 2012, a 33% decline from the 86.4 million it sold in 2011.

The big beneficiaries of Nokia and LG’s fall were Samsung (005930), which saw its mobile phone sales increase 22% from 315 million in 2011 to 385 million in 2012, and Apple (AAPL), which saw its mobile phone sales increase by 46% from 89 million in 2011 to 130 million in 2012.

As far as smartphone mobile operating systems go, Gartner found that Samsung’s rise has helped Android continue its dominance of the smartphone market with a market share of 70% in the fourth quarter of 2012, nearly 20 percentage points greater than the 51% market share that Android posted in the fourth quarter of  2011.

IOS saw its market share decline slightly from 24% in Q4 2011 to 21% in Q4 2012, while BlackBerry (BBRY) saw its market share crater from 9% in Q4 2011 to just 3.5% in Q4 2012. Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone operating system posted a slight gain year-over-year, going from a 2% market share in Q4 2011 to 3% in Q4 2012.

Prior to joining BGR as News Editor, Brad Reed spent five years covering the wireless industry for Network World. His first smartphone was a BlackBerry but he has since become a loyal Android user.