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Mobile Phone Shipments: Samsung Takes Top Spot From Nokia

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(Photo: Sanja Gjenero)
(Photo: Sanja Gjenero)


  • Samsung registers highest profit since 2008 with sales 36% higher over Q1 last year
  • Together Samsung and Nokia hold 48% of smartphone market
  • Global smartphone shipments forecast to grow 33%

After 14 years in the top spot, Finland’s Nokia has been replaced by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. as the world’s largest mobile phone maker, according to recent research from by private industry firms.

Nokia previously took the top position from Motorola Mobility Inc.

Profit slid for Nokia by $1.8 billion during the first quarter of 2012, with close to 83 million phones shipped. This falls behind numbers reported by Samsung, which registered a $4.5 billion net income and shipped 93.5 million phones during the same time period.

Samsung’s profits are the highest since 2008, and sales are 36% higher than the first quarter of 2011.

Together Samsung and Nokia hold nearly a 48% market share.

Samsung has seen a boost in growth thanks to its Galaxy smartphones, for which sales grew 86% in one year allowing Samsung to overtake Apple as the top cell phone manufacturer. The Galaxy3 debuted in early May.

Robert Yi, Samsung’s head of investor relations, told the BBC: "We cautiously expect our earnings momentum to continue going forward as competitiveness in our major businesses is enhanced."

Samsung is also the top manufacturer of televisions and flat screens.

Mobile Phone Market Forecast To Grow 7.4%

Globally, smartphone shipments are forecasted to grow 33% this year, while overall the mobile phone market is forecasted to grow 7.4%. Analysts expect the smartphone market to continue to grow in coming years.

At the same time, as more smartphone models enter the market, manufacturers will be forced to lower prices as they compete for customers. Currently, Samsung, Nokia and Apple are the top smartphone manufacturers followed by HTC.

However, RIM, LG and Nokia are considered the least stable manufacturers in the mobile phone industry. Nokia has been squeezed on both ends, analysts say.

In addition, smartphone sales have declined, while the sale of low-end phones in emerging markets have also declined. Nokia’s sales in China fell 62% as Samsung’s sales in China increased.

Samsung is expected to hold the top spot through the second quarter, while Nokia’s third and fourth quarters are always strong thanks to holiday sales.

Samsung’s only weakness is its dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips, which are used in personal computers but are on the decline as tablet popularity increases.

Key Statistics - Global Mobile Handset Shipments Q1 2012 (source: Strategy Analytics)

  • Samsung takes the lead for mobile handset shipments, sending 93.5 million units in Q1 2012 for a total of 25.4% market share.
  • Nokia is in second with a 22.5% market share for sending 82.7 million units in Q1 2012.
  • Apple ranks third with a 9.5% market share and shipped 35.1 million units in Q1 2012.
  • Combined, the other smartphone vendors shipped a total of 156.7 million units in Q1 2012, totaling 42.6% market share.

By Melina Druga for
Melina Druga is an author and freelance journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @MelinaDruga .

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