A couple of firsts in the smartphone market developed in 4Q11, now that most of the major handset manufacturers have reported their results. According to ABI Research, Apple topped the smartphone market (finally), and Android suffered its first decline in marketshare.
 
The group says 150 million smartphones were shipped in the last three months of last year, “representing a record high penetration of 36 percent of the 409 million total handsets shipped worldwide.” Apple led with 37 million iPhones shipped for a sequential growth rate of 117 percent (128 percent quarter over quarter). As a result, Apple was the Number One smartphone OEM in the quarter and for the year.
 
However, for the first time since Android was introduced, its marketshare fell from a 3Q11 of 52.5 percent to 47 percent in 4Q11. Despite Samsung’s 33 million shipments as the top Android OEM, ABI says Apple’s iPhone 4S “cut Samsung off at the knees and outpaced Samsung’s highly coveted 280-percent year-over-year smartphone growth.

The overall handset market increased 5.4 percent sequentially and 11.4 percent for the year, reaching 1.54 billion shipments in 2011. As a segment, the smartphone market delivered 28.6-percent sequential growth, 48.6-percent QoQ and 57.4 percent YoY, with the 2011 total reaching 473 million shipments.

“It is important to note that if smartphones are taken out of the equation, the remainder of the handset market showed a YoY shipment decline of 1.6 percent, signifying that market growth is entirely dependent on smartphones” comments Senior Analyst Michael Morgan.

Chinese-based handset OEMs are leading the market for low-cost Android devices, and this pressures the rest of the Android ecosystem to innovate or die. At the low end of the Android spectrum, ABI found Chinese handset OEMs Huawei and ZTE continued their upward swing, with 6.6 million and 4.5 million units shipped, respectively. As Android approaches its fifth year as a platform, “its midsection is sagging as Motorola, LG and Sony Ericsson struggle with profitability,” ABI adds.

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