For the first time in 14 years, wireless communications giant Nokia will not sit atop the global cellphone business on an annual basis at the end of 2012—with Samsung set to seize the mobile handset market’s top rank.
Samsung is expected to account for 29 percent of worldwide cellphone shipments, up from 24 percent in 2011, according to the IHS iSuppli Mobile and Wireless Communications Service at information and analytics provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). Nokia’s share this year will drop to 24 percent, down from 30 percent last year, as presented in Table 1.
A dislodged Nokia will cause Samsung to rise to first place for the full year of 2012, up from the second rank in 2011, the first time the South Korean electronics titan will occupy the top on a yearly basis. Nokia will fall to the runner-up spot, the first time since 1998 it won’t be in peak position for overall cellphone shipments during a full calendar year.
“The competitive reality of the cellphone market in 2012 was ‘live by the smartphone; die by the smartphone,’” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS. “Smartphones represent the fastest-growing segment of the cellphone market—and will account for nearly half of all wireless handset shipments for all of 2012. Samsung’s successes and Nokia’s struggles in the cellphone market this year were determined entirely by the two companies’ divergent fortunes in the smartphone sector.”
Global smartphone shipments are set to rise by 35.5 percent this year, while overall cellphone shipments will increase by approximately 1 percent. This rapid growth will propel 2012 smartphone penetration to 47 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011.
Samsung’s Success vs. Nokia’s Nosedive
Samsung’s success has been built on its “fast follower” strategy for design and manufacturing. The company produces dozens of new smartphone models every year that address all segments of the market, from the high end to the low end. Samsung monitors the big trends in smartphone design, user needs and unmet market opportunities, then creates products to fit those markets quickly and efficiently.
Meanwhile, Finnish-based Nokia is mired in transitioning its smartphone line to the Windows operating system, resulting in declining shipments for the company. Sales of the company’s older Symbian-based phones have plunged, while its new Microsoft Windows 7-based handsets haven’t been able to make up for the loss so far.
Samsung is expected to post the best performance among the Top 5 smartphone brands in 2012, with its share of global smartphone shipments rising 8 points to 28 percent, up from 20 percent in 2011. In contrast, Nokia will suffer the biggest decrease, with its share forecast to plunge by 11 points to 5 percent in 2012, down from 16 percent in 2011, as presented in Table 2.