Mobile phone sales fell in 2012 although smartphone sales continued to grow rapidly, according to market research firm Gartner.
We are used to the idea that tablet computers and smartphones are driving semiconductor sales right now, but here is another statistic to put alongside the fall in desktop and notebook computer sales: worldwide mobile phones sales fell in 2012.
Or at least according to market research firm Gartner Inc. they did. Gartner has said that worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 1.75 billion units in 2012, a 1.7 percent decline from 2011 sales.
"The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year."
Gartner does see a resumption of mobile phone sales growth in 2013 but driven by the fast ramping smartphone and hindered by all other classes of mobile phone. Gartner predicts that sales of worldwide smartphone sales to end users will be close to 1 billion units in 2013, and overall mobile phone sales to end users are estimated to reach 1.9 billion units.
Samsung's resources and ability to build a broad market reach is an advantage that no other competitor can easily match. However, the competition will intensify in 2013 as players such as Sony and Nokia improve, said Gartner. "With Samsung commanding over 42.5 percent of the Android market globally, and the next vendor at just 6 percent share, the Android brand is being overshadowed by Samsung's brand with the Galaxy name nearly a synonym for Android phones in consumers' mind share," said Gupta.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, Nokia’s handset sales improved as a result of a good consumer response to its Asha mobile phones and the launch of the latest Lumia Windows Phone 8 models. It was not sufficient to stop Nokia to lose further market share, totaling 18 percent, the lowest it has ever been.
Click on image to enlarge.
Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users by vendor in 2012
(thousands of units). Source: Gartner (February 2013).
"We are used to the idea that tablet computers and smartphones are driving semiconductor sales right now, but here is another statistic to put alongside the fall in desktop and notebook computer sales: worldwide mobile phones sales fell in 2012."
Obviously smartphone and tablets are still the driving force for semi industry. What probably declined is the sales of low-mid end phones, which is getting fast replaced by smartphones. Nokia's decline(with its huge presence in this sector) validates the point.
It's funny how one set of data can be interpreted in such different ways. Yes, the data shows that in aggregate, total sales of mobile phones declined by 1.7%. But the same data also shows that two of the top three -- Samsung & Apple -- had a banner year. Samsung's unit sales increased 22% over 2011 and Apple's increased a whopping 45.8%.
Since Samsung & Apple dominate in smartphones & tablets, the headline could just as well have read "Smartphones & tablets show record growth in 2012," which results in a much different (and more accurate) interpretation of the data than a headline that implies that the mobile market is declining.
I would love to see the equivalent table expressed in terms of sales dollars rather than sales of units.
At some point, we should see market saturation and then we'll just be seeing the replacement sales as phones break or are upgraded. Cell phones are showing remarkable penetration into emerging markets so the first time buyer sales numbers will slow down worldwide.