Samsung Electronics overtook Nokia in the first quarter to become the world’s largest cell phone brand for the first time, according to research by IHS.
Samsung, however, remained in second place in the smartphone segment of the cell phone market, behind Apple.
The South Korean electronics giant shipped 92 million cell phones worldwide in the first quarter, compared with 83 million for longtime market leader Nokia. While Samsung’s shipments declined 13 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, Nokia’s plummeted 27 percent, allowing Samsung to rise one position to take first place.
In the smartphone segment of the cell phone market, Apple shipped 35 million units in the first quarter, compared with 32 million for Samsung. Apple remained in the No. 1 position in smartphones that it captured in the fourth quarter of 2011, while Samsung held on to second place.
Apple’s smartphone shipments declined 5 percent, compared with 11 percent for Samsung. Sequential declines in the shipments of smartphones as well as cell phones reflect normal seasonal patterns in which sales decrease following the peak holiday period in the fourth quarter.
“With cell phones now accounting for more than 40 percent of Samsung’s overall revenue, it’s clear that the company’s continued investments in smartphone hardware and software R&D are paying off,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS. “The company is not only cashing in on the market’s shift to smartphones, but is also succeeding in other cell phone product categories, allowing it to capture the overall market lead. What makes Samsung’s performance even more impressive is that the company’s latest Galaxy S III handset has yet to be launched, with shipments set to start in May. This indicates Samsung is likely to make further progress in market share in 2012.”
With Samsung taking the lead position, it will mark the first time since 1998 that Nokia has not been the No. 1 brand in the global cell phone market.
Smartphones are the only segment of the global cell phone business expected to expand in 2012. Global smartphone shipments are set to rise 35 percent this year, while those for feature phones, entry-level phones and ultra-low-cost handsets will decline, IHS said.
As a result, the smartphone segment will be single-handedly responsible for the overall cell phone business expansion of 7.4 percent in 2012. Next year, smartphone shipments are expected to account for more than half of all cell phones for the first time, at 52 percent, up from 43.5 percent in 2012.
Smartphones represented 34 percent of Samsung's handset shipments in the first quarter. In contrast, smartphones accounted for just 14 percent of Nokia’s shipments.