|Apple's iPhone 4S helped boost it up the ladder of mobile-phone market share. |
Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired
Apple jumped two spots over the course of 2011. This time last year, Apple held fifth place among the world’s top phone manufacturers.
However, there still remains a huge gap between Apple and the twin forces of Samsung and Nokia, which dominate the mobile-phone market thanks to the popularity of their inexpensive feature phones. For Q4 2011, Nokia owned 26.6 percent of the worldwide mobile-phone market, Samsung held 22.8 percent and Apple had 8.7 percent. For the year overall, the stats were slightly different: Nokia had 27 percent of the market, Samsung had 21.3 percent and Apple had 6 percent, just beating out the 5.7 percent of LG Electronics.
“The strength of the iPhone 4S in Q4 alone clearly propelled Apple to the third position overall,” IDC analyst Kevin Restivo said. Apple had blockbuster sales last quarter, selling more than 37.04 million iPhones over the holiday season. Most of that was due to demand for the iPhone 4S, and, in the U.S., reduced prices for the year-old iPhone 4 and 2-year-old 3GS helped boost sales as well.
Widespread availability was key, too.
“I think Apple’s success is due to the presence of the iPhone in an enormous number of markets,” Canalysis principal analyst Pete Cunningham told Wired. Indeed, the iPhone 4S enjoyed the fastest iPhone rollout in Apple’s history. It’s now available in more than 90 countries, including China. In the company’s most recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that iPhone 4S demand in China “has been staggering,” despite the phone only having just launched there.
|IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker|
“LG really missed the entire touchscreen smartphone game,” Restivo said. “Only years after Apple made its mark, LG tried to transition more successfully into the smartphone place, and it’s still recovering.”
Unless its Lumia smartphones pick up momentum, Nokia could follow a path similar to LG’s, as Nokia was also late to the smartphone game. But Samsung has a solid footing in both arenas, with solid feature phone sales and record-breaking smartphone sales.
Restivo says that Apple will need to better penetrate emerging markets like those in Russia, Brazil and the middle east if it wants to sustain and improve its growth in the mobile phone space. But innovation is still the prime factor in driving Apple’s success, Restivo says.
“Apple has to continue to capture people’s interest,” Restivo said. “It’s not just about adding a better camera or processor.”
Indeed, chasing pure sales volume isn’t in Apple’s best interests, and it’s not the secret to its runaway success in the mobile space. “I’d probably argue it’s not important for Apple to be the number one vendor in the market,” Cunningham said. “The important aspect is Apple’s share of the value of the market as opposed to the volume.”
Still, as anyone with the hint of a competitive streak knows: It doesn’t hurt to be number one in every ranking, too.