Gartner: Apple, Samsung Score in First Quarter

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Ten Phones That Put the 'Smart' in Smartphone

Gartner's numbers on mobile phones were released last week.

The firm outlined a quarter that could have been better. Overall device sales of 419.1 million represented a 2 percent decline compared to the first quarter of last year. Samsung and Apple had good quarters compared to the year-ago quarter, while Nokia was way down. Operating systems also saw some big swings. Android and iOS were up, while Symbian and RIM both had hard times.

There are a lot of numbers to wade through. The bottom line is that advanced mobile phones continue to grow, while those without smarts shrink. That's been the trend for a while. The difference this quarter, though, is that the growth of smartphones isn't quite compensating for the shrinkage in the other. Here is how Gartner put it:

Sales of smartphones continued to drive mobile device market growth, reaching 144.4 million units in the first quarter of 2012, up 44.7 percent year-over-year. This quarter also saw the top two smartphone vendors, Apple and Samsung, raising their combined share to 49.3 percent, up from 29.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011, and widening their lead over Nokia-which saw its smartphone market share drop to 9.2 percent.

There also was consolidation in the operating system sector, with the top two platforms - Apple's iOS and Google's Android, of course - jumping from 53.3 percent to 79 percent of the market. Android lengthened its share lead over iOS from just under 20 percent to more than 33 percent. Larry Dignan discusses this trend at ZDNet. On the smartphone-only side of the ledger, Joe Wilcox at BetaNews discusses his view that Samsung is ascendant - but concedes that it will share the spotlight with Apple. A duopoly has been set.

There is built-in complexity to this and other analyses of the sector. The market can be divvied up by device vendor and by operating system. That distinction is necessary, of course, because of the use of Android by multiple vendors. It also is possible to either lump together or separate smartphones and tablets.

In any case, the bottom line is that a different world is evolving quickly for IT departments and users. In addition to the growth of Android in OSes and Samsung in devices, there is the continued decline of Research In Motion - it almost declined by half between the two quarters - and the continued irrelevancy of Windows Phone.

The feeling is that the market is cement or jello that is starting to set but still is malleable. The basic battlelines for smartphone vendors and smartphone/tablet operating systems largely is determined, but movement will be less drastic.

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