Worldwide phone and smartphone stats, Q4, 2011

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Most of the numbers are now in for Q4, 2011 and, while some are estimates, we now have a pretty good idea of the state of the mobile industry for the last quarter. Phones grew 6% year on year, smartphones by a whopping 63%, with the latter now at 36% of the overall market. The top three companies were the same by either metric - Apple, Samsung and Nokia are way ahead of the rest.

Rather than reproduce every last detail here, let me point you towards the press release of Strategy Analytics and that of IDC.

In summary, here's the picture for overall mobile sales, courtesy of IDC:

Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Q4 2011 (Units in Millions) 

Vendor   4Q11 Shipments   4Q11 Market Share   4Q10 Shipments   4Q10 Market Share   Y-over-Y Change  
Nokia   113.5 26.6% 123.7 30.7% -8.2%
Samsung 97.6 22.8% 80.7 20.0% 20.9%
Apple 37.0 8.7% 16.2 4.0% 128.4%
LG Electronics 17.7 4.1% 30.6 7.6% -42.2%
ZTE 17.1 4.0% 15.7 3.9% 8.9%
Others 144.5 33.8% 135.9 33.7% 6.3%
Total 427.4 100.0% 402.8 100.0% 6.1%

Although Nokia is still comfortably the top selling phone maker in the world, its lead has been halved by Samsung, while Apple is now firmly in third place with its much more profitable iPhone range. The whole market grew by 6%, year on year, less than in previous years but still heading upwards, in line with population and increased penetration in developing markets.

The table below shows the breakdown in terms of 'smartphones', though the very definition is something which is coming under increasing attack, not least from (what were previously considered) 'feature' phones, which increasingly have full Internet access, email and social clients, touch-based games, and more...

Global Smartphone Vendor Shipments
(Millions of Units)
Q4 '10 Whole of 2010 Q4 '11 Whole of 2011
Samsung 10.7 23.9 36.5 97.4
Apple 16.2 47.5 37.0 93.0
Nokia 28.3 100.1 19.6 77.3
Others 45.6 128.0 61.9 220.8
Total 100.7 299.5  155.0  488.5 

It's not entirely clear whether Samsung's Bada phones are included in the total above. Nokia's sales of 19.6 smartphones (around 95% Symbian) in Q4 would, a few years ago, have been dominant, but it's a sign of the times that smartphone market leaders, Samsung and Apple, both managed around 37 million sales in the same period. Over the course of the year there wasn't that big a difference between the top three and Samsung, Apple and Nokia are way ahead of the trailing pack, just as they are for wider mobile handset sales.

Significantly, the entire 'smartphone' market grew by 63% over the year, a big contrast to the 6% growth of the overall market. The 'smartphone' segment is now up to 36% and will be 50% by the end of 2012, surely a sign that we should soon drop the moniker altogether and just talk about 'phones'? If nothing else, it would make these news stories simpler to write and simpler to understand!