Wednesday, 29 January 2014 07:38

World smartphone shipments hit a billion in 2013 Featured

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There were over one billion smartphones sold on planet Earth in 2013. That’s an astronomical number.

The average smartphone is about 13cm long. Multiply that by one billion. That gives you 130,000 km – almost exactly one third of the distance from the earth to the moon. That’s a long way, and that’s a lot of smartphones.

Market research company IDC says that a total of 1,004.2 million smartphones were sold worldwide in 2013, up 38.4% from the 725.3 million units in 2012.

Smartphones accounted for 55.1% of all mobile phone shipments in 2013, up from the 41.7% in 2012. In the fourth quarter of 2013 (4Q13), vendors shipped a total of 284.4 million smartphones worldwide, up 24.2% from the 229.0 million units shipped in 4Q12.

In the worldwide mobile phone market (inclusive of smartphones), vendors shipped 1,821.8 million units, up 4.8% from the 1,738.1 million units shipped 2012. In 4Q13 alone, vendors shipped a total of 488.4 million units worldwide, up 0.9% from the 484.0 million units shipped in 4Q12.

"The sheer volume and strong growth attest to the smartphone's continued popularity in 2013," says IDC’s Ramon Llamas. "Among the top trends driving smartphone growth are large screen devices and low cost. Of the two, low cost is the key difference maker.

“Cheap devices are not the attractive segment that normally grabs headlines, but IDC data shows this is the portion of the market that is driving volume. Markets like China and India are quickly moving toward a point where sub-$150 smartphones are the majority of shipments, bringing a solid computing experience to the hands of many.

Samsung: ended the quarter the same way it began the year: as the clear leader in worldwide smartphone shipments. But even with sustained demand for its Galaxy S III, S4, and Note models, as well as its deep selection of mid-range and entry-level models, the company realised a decline compared to the previous quarter. Nevertheless, the company maintained a sizable double-digit lead over the next vendor.

Apple: posted record shipment volume during 4Q13, driven primarily by the addition of multiple countries offering the iPhone 5S and 5C, and sustained demand from its linitial markets that saw these models launch at the end of 3Q13. Still, Apple had the lowest year-on-year increase of all the leading vendors. Now that Apple has finally arrived at China Mobile, it remains to be seen how much Apple will close the gap against Samsung in 2014.

Huawei: maintained its number three position worldwide, attained the highest year-on-year increase among the leading vendors, and raised its brand profile with a higher proportion of self-branded units compared to the OEM work it had done for other companies. Still, even with its success, Huawei faces a crowded group of potential competitors within striking distance.

Lenovo: despite having no presence in North America or Western Europe, finished the quarter in the number four position. The company's strength lies in its strong presence within key emerging markets and a well-segmented product portfolio spanning from simple, affordable smartphones to full-featured 5 inch screen models. Should the company become successful at branching into more developed markets in 2014, it could challenge Huawei for the number three spot.

LG: finished just behind Lenovo and edged out ZTE for the number five position, with just five million units separating the two companies. At the same time, its year-on-year improvement put the company on par with Huawei and Lenovo with market beating growth. LG's success can be directly attributed to its revived portfolio from a year ago, which featured more large-screen and high-end models, including the Nexus 5 and its Optimus G series.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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