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Samsung owning numbers game as smartphone shipments go past 1bn

Turns out 2013 was a landmark year for smartphones. Not because any particularly amazing models were launched, things were actually pretty slow on that front. No, what made 2013 special was the sheer number devices sold.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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According to research and tracking company IDC, the year marked the first time that global smartphone sales went past the one-billion mark.

In order to get past that one-billion shipments mark, the global smartphone market had to grow 38.4% from the 725.3-million units shipped in 2012. That kind of growth means that smartphones now account for 55% of the total mobile market, which grew 4.8% to 1.8-billion units shipped for the year.

“Among the top trends driving smartphone growth are large screen devices and low cost,” said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “Of the two, I have to say that 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-US$150 smartphones are the majority of shipments, bringing a solid computing experience to the hands of many”.

The slower growth in the overall mobile market does however suggest that smartphones are unlikely to keep seeing the same kind of increases in shipments as they have over the past few years.

What could still change however, is which companies are dominating those shipments. For the moment, things are pretty much as they’ve been for the past couple of years. Samsung remains dominant at the top of the smartphone pile, with 31.3% of the market. That’s not too bad considering that it’s facing increasing pressure in pretty much all of the segments it plays in.

Apple’s market share meanwhile slipped from 18.7% to 15.3%. That shouldn’t really be taken as an indication of how healthy its sales for the year were. It did, after all, ship a record number of iPhones in the most recent financial quarter. Instead, its falling marketshare should be taken as a consequence of the growth from the bottom of the market, with less expensive devices becoming increasingly ubiquitous, especially in emerging market countries.

People in those markets won’t always be satisfied with cheaper devices and if the like of Huawei (currently number three on the smartphone leader board) and Lenovo (sitting in fifth spot) can capture and keep people loyal at the bottom, then they can make some serious ground with their higher end devices.

In producing what many regarded to be the best phone of 2013 in the G2 meanwhile, LG has consolidated its fourth place spot. With a continued run of good form and a more cogent marketing strategy, things could seriously turn around for Korea’s number two electronics company.