Apple is the top smartphone vendor for 2011, but Android OS continues to lead market share

The great Apple vs. Android debate continues to press on. In the latest chapter of the competition, Apple strutted its stuff as the world’s top smartphone vendor by marketshare in 2011 at 19 percent, according to Gartner. This is due to a big charge during Q4 in which Apple grabbed 23.8 percent of the overall market. In the quarter alone, Apple sold 35.5 million handsets, a 121.4 percent increase from Q4 2010. Amidst all of Apple’s success, it also helped the company take over as the third largest seller of smartphones, behind Nokia and Samsung. This seems to fall in line with Kantar’s recent findings.

While Apple continues to make a big push in the smartphone battle, Android continues to win the software war. The Android OS was the top OS, having 50.9 percent of the overall smartphone market. While Android had a major advantage in the quarter, Gartner reports it is down compared to the previous quarter—where the Android OS had 53 percent of the overall smartphone market. Remember folks, independent researchers such as Nielsen continue to highlight the Android OS as having the most overall influence and advantage over all other software platforms. I’m sure you’re all dying to see more findings about Gartner’s report, so why don’t you hit the break to see the full press release.

Full press release:

Gartner Says Worldwide Smartphone Sales Soared in Fourth Quarter of 2011

Apple Became Top Smartphone Vendor in Fourth Quarter of 2011 and in 2011 as a Whole

Egham, UK, February 15, 2012-

Worldwide smartphone sales to end users soared to 149 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 47.3 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Gartner, Inc. Total smartphone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010.

Smartphone volumes during the quarter rose due to record sales of Apple iPhones. As a result, Apple became the third-largest mobile phone vendor in the world, overtaking LG. Apple also became the world’s top smartphone vendor, with a market share of 23.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, and the top smartphone vendor for 2011 as a whole, with a 19 percent market share. “Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. “In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales.”

The quarter saw Samsung and Apple cement their positions further at the top of the market as their brands and new products clearly stood out. LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Research In Motion (RIM) again recorded disappointing results as they struggled to improve volumes and profits significantly. These vendors were also exposed to a much stronger threat from the midrange and low end of the smartphone market as ZTE and Huawei continued to gain share during the quarter.

Worldwide mobile device sales to end users totaled 476.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 5.4 percent increase from the same period in 2010 (see Table 1). In 2011 as a whole, end users bought 1.8 billion units, an 11.1 percent increase from 2010 (see Table 2). “Expectations for 2012 are for the overall market to grow by about 7 percent, while smartphone growth is expected to slow to around 39 percent,” said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Nokia’s mobile phone sales numbered 111.7 million units, an 8.7 percent decrease from last year. “Samsung closed the gap with Nokia in overall market share,” said Ms. Cozza. “Samsung profited from strong smartphone sales of 34 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. The troubled economic environment in Europe and Nokia’s weakened brand status posed challenges that were hard to overcome in just one quarter. However, Nokia proved its ability to execute and deliver on time with its new Lumia 710 and 800 handsets. Nokia will have to continue to offer aggressive prices to encourage communications service providers (CSPs) to add its products to portfolios currently dominated by Android-based devices.”

Apple had an exceptional fourth quarter, selling 35.5 million smartphones to end users, a 121.4 percent increase year on year. Apple’s continued attention to channel management helped it take full advantage of the strong quarter to further close the gap with Samsung, which saw some inventory build up for its smartphone range. Apple’s strong performance will continue into the first quarter of 2012 as availability of the iPhone 4S widens. However, since Apple will not benefit from delayed purchases as it did in the fourth quarter of 2011, Gartner analysts expect its sales to decline quarter-on-quarter.

After Apple, ZTE and Huawei were the fastest-growing vendors in the fourth quarter of 2011. “These vendors expanded their market reach and kept on improving the user experience of their Android devices,” said Ms. Cozza.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, ZTE moved into fourth place in the global handset market. ZTE posted a strong smartphone sales increase of 71 percent sequentially. The company was able to extend its portfolio to three CSPs in its home market and benefited from consumers’ interest in low-cost smartphones. Huawei moved ahead of LG in the Android marketplace to become a top-four Android manufacturer, thanks to strong smartphone growth in the quarter. Huawei has made significant progress in moving to its own-branded devices, and it has continued to expand its portfolio into higher tiers as its tries to build more iconic products.

RIM dropped to the No. 7 spot in the fourth quarter of 2011, with a 10.7 percent decline. RIM’s delay with its BlackBerry 10 platform will further impair its ability to retain users. However, RIM’s biggest challenge is still to expand the developer base around its ecosystem and convince developers to work and innovate with BlackBerry 10.

In the smartphone OS market (see Table 3), competition between Google and Apple intensified. Android’s share declined slightly sequentially. This was due to strong iPhone sales, driven in particular by the iPhone 4S in mature markets and the weakness of key Android vendors as they struggled to create unique and differentiated devices. Samsung remained the main contributor to Android share gains in the second half of 2011. iOS’s market share grew 8 percentage points year-on-year, but Gartner analysts expect Apple’s share to drop in the next couple of quarters as the upgrade cycle to the iPhone 4S slows. Nokia’s first Windows Phone smartphones, the Lumia 710 and 800, made their debut, but, as expected, sales were not enough to prevent a fall in Microsoft’s smartphone market share.

About the Author: Roy Alugbue

Conceived as Spock’s 4th cousin, Roy has had quite the life. He was born in beautiful San Jose, California, raised in Los Angeles, California and now resides in the greater New York City area. He has always been fascinated and obsessed with technology, especially the continuous advancements of mobile platforms. He was a Blackberry slave since his undergrad days at the University of Southern California until realizing in Feb. 2011, there were greener pastures in the land of Android. His first Android phone was the Motorola Atrix 4G, and he hasn’t looked back. He currently works in corporate media, enjoys following media and technology trends, reading a good book, weightlifting, playing on his XBOX 360 and conversing with total strangers.

  • Anonymous

    This does not surprise me. In fact, why should it surprise anyone? Apple has 1 manufacturer, themselves. Monopoly on iOS. Android is on a million other manufacturers. The Android OS has a much better chance at being #1 OS. And because iOS is on a single device, and its dubbed the “Apple vs. Android” debate. These two stats will remain the same until either Google makes their own phone and only puts Android on that one phone or iOS starts being available on more than 1 manufacturer device. Then we will have a true apples to apples comparison. No pun intended.

  • Justin Jacobs

    nice chart, needs help with math….. 100.1%?

  • Lawrence D’Oliveiro

    Every time statistics like these are announced, somebody will point out how it’s just Apple making IOS phones, versus this whole army of vendors on the Android side, and how if you divide up by the number of vendors, Apple is still way ahead.

    I wonder if we can apply this same argument to the “fragmentation” issue, as well? There was a study reported recently which said that Apple has 23 different versions of IOS out in the field, while the total number of versions of Android in use totals 33. So if you divide it up by the number of vendors, Apple’s platform is WAY more fragmented than Android!