The worldwide smartphone market reached yet another milestone, having shipped one billion units in a single year for the first time. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 1,004.2 million smartphones worldwide, up 38.4% from the 725.3 million units in 2012. This aligns with IDC’s most recent forecast of 1,010.4 million units, making for a difference of less than 1%. Smartphones accounted for 55.1% of all mobile phone shipments in 2013, up from the 41.7% of all mobile phone shipments 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. This is 2.8% lower than the 502.4 million units that IDC had recently forecast.

“The sheer volume and strong growth attest to the smartphone’s continued popularity in 2013,” says Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team. “Total smartphone shipments reached 494.4 million units worldwide in 2011, and doubling that volume in just two years demonstrates strong end-user demand and vendor strategies to highlight smartphones.”

“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-$150 smartphones are the majority of shipments, bringing a solid computing experience to the hands of many.

Smartphone Vendor Highlights:

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 realized 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 initial 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 ODM 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 nor 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″ 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.

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 (Units in Millions)
IDC: Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 (Units in Millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 27, 2014

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 Q4 (Units in Millions)
IDC: Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 Q4 (Units in Millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 27, 2014

Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 (Units in Millions)
IDC: Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 (Units in Millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 27, 2014

Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 Q3 (Units in Millions)
IDC: Top Five Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 Q3 (Units in Millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 27, 2014

Note: Data are preliminary and subject to change. Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.

Source: International Data Corporation (IDC)

MacDailyNews Take: Apple isn’t shooting for general market share domination, just market share domination of the mid- to high-end, which, by all anecdotal evidence (customer quality, apps sold, data usage, etc.) they do dominate.

That said, Apple is leaving sales on the table and making it more difficult for themselves to later gather up these lost customers who begin to invest in the fragmandroid “ecosystem.”

As we wrote last week:

When Apple finally extracts their collective head from their collective ass and ships iPhone models with larger screens, they’ll do more damage to slavish copier Samsung than all of their endless, plodding patent infringement cases combined.

We believe that Apple became infatuated with the fact that only they could produce small, thin smartphones with an efficient OS that could work with the small batteries that these compact iPhones housed. “Nobody else can do such things.” Meanwhile, battery-hogging Android leeches like Samsung slapped larger screens on their phones to hide the fact that they needed significantly larger batteries in order to run for even a few hours (Android phones are notorious for running out of charge).

Far too many otherwise intelligent consumers saw little or nothing of Apple’s considerable engineering superiority (the iPhone 5s is simply the best smartphone anyone has ever produced), these otherwise intelligent consumers only saw iPhone’s smaller screens. They didn’t see Android’s inefficiency or inferior ecosystem, they only saw phones with larger screens.

If we’ve heard from one person who went with an Android phone for a larger screen who in fact really wanted an iPhone – “I’d have gotten an iPhone if only they had a larger screen” – we’ve heard it from a thousand. These are top tier, cream-of-the-crop customers (i.e. Apple’s target demographic), not low information cheapskates. They want to be Apple customers and participate heavily in Apple’s ecosystems, but, for a few years now, Apple has been blowing these sales by failing to deliver the product these high value customers desired. It’s inexplicable; any downsides (fragmentation, inventory management, etc.) are vastly outweighed by the vast sales potential to those who should be Apple customers, but are now carrying a plastic piece of crap from Samsung.

Bottom line: Apple screwed the pooch on this one. Shit or get off the pot, Tim.

MacDailyNews iPhone screen size poll

Source: MacDailyNews