Gartner: 2012 mobile phone sales declined 1.7% worldwide; Apple iPhone sales up 22.6% YOY

Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 1.75 billion units in 2012, a 1.7 percent decline from 2011 sales, according to Gartner, Inc.

Smartphones continued to drive overall mobile phone sales, and the fourth quarter of 2012 saw record smartphone sales of 207.7 million units, up 38.3 percent from the same period last year.

“The last time the worldwide mobile phone market declined was in 2009,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement. “Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year.”

Demand for feature phones remained weak in 2012 and in the fourth quarter. Feature phone sales totaled 264.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, down 19.3 percent year-on-year. Gartner analysts expect feature phones sales to continue to fall in 2013. Gartner predicts that sales of worldwide smartphone sales to end users will be close to 1 billion units in 2013, and overall mobile phone sales to end users are estimated to reach 1.9 billion units.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple and Samsung together raised their worldwide smartphone market share to 52 percent from 46.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012. Samsung ended the year in the No. 1 position, in both worldwide smartphone unit sales and overall mobile phone unit sales.

“There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the No. 3 spot in global smartphone sales,” said Mr. Gupta. “The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products. Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand.”

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Samsung’s overall smartphone sales continued to accelerate totaling 64.5 million units, up 85.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. In 2012, Samsung totaled 384.6 million mobile phones sales, of which 53.5 percent (up from 28 percent in 2011) were smartphone sales.

Samsung’s resources and ability to build a broad market reach is an advantage that no other competitor can easily match. However, the competition will intensify in 2013 as players such as Sony and Nokia improve. “With Samsung commanding over 42.5 percent of the Android market globally, and the next vendor at just 6 percent share, the Android brand is being overshadowed by Samsung’s brand with the Galaxy name nearly a synonym for Android phones in consumers’ mind share,” said Mr. Gupta.

Apple’s sales reached 43.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, up 22.6 percent year-on-year. In 2012, Apple totaled 130 million smartphone sales worldwide. While the demand for iPhones in the fourth quarter remained strong, consumers’ demand favored the less expensive iPhone 4 and 4S models. The arrival of the iPad mini also created a dilemma for some users when deciding if to upgrade an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to an iPhone 5, or buy the new tablet, according to Gartner.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, beleaguered Nokia lost further market share, totaling 18 percent, the lowest it has ever been. In 2012, Nokia reached 39.3 million smartphone sales worldwide, down 53.6 percent from 2011. Analysts said that aside from the continued focus on Lumia, Nokia needs to build on momentum around Asha in 2013 by adding devices and apps to further enhance its overall value proposition and, in doing so, moving up the price point slightly to achieve better margins breaching the gap left by Symbian.

Table 1: Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 4Q12 (Thousands of Units)
Gartner: Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 4Q12 (Thousands of Units)
Source: Gartner (February 2013)

Table 2: Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2012 (Thousands of Units)
Gartner: Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2012 (Thousands of Units)
Source: Gartner (February 2013)

In the smartphone operating system (OS) market (see Table 3), Android grew 87.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, RIM declined 44.4 percent in the same period.

“2013 will be the year of the rise of the third ecosystem as the battle between the new BlackBerry10 and Widows Phone intensifies,” said Mr. Gupta. “As carriers and vendors feel the pressure of the strong Android’s growth, alternative operating systems such as Tizen, Firefox, Ubuntu and Jolla will try and carve out an opportunity by positioning themselves as profitable alternatives.”

Table 3: Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 4Q12 (Thousands of Units)
Gartner: Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 4Q12 (Thousands of Units)
Source: Gartner (February 2013)

Additional information is in the Gartner report “Market Share Analysis: Mobile Phones, Worldwide, 4Q12 and 2012.” The report is available on Gartner’s website at

Source: Gartner, Inc.


  1. Don’t forget the lifespan of an iPhone folks. These things last a long time and their resale value is very good. Just check out Kijiji or Craigslist and you’ll find hundreds of 4s, 4Ss, even 3s and 3Gs. Some of these units are 4 years old or more… and they still work great.

    I just bought a 4 16gig unit for a family member and paid $250 for it. My point is, there’s no way Apple can maintain the kind of YOY growth as in the early days, partly because THEY MAKE SUCH PHENOMENALLY HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS!!

  2. The use of “Android” to denote a coherent system platform for the wide variety of mutually incompatible forks of ur-android is about as fair and useful as referring to all “Android” and iOS phones together as “*nix phones” . Almost all the “Andoid” phones sold in China have no connection to Google or Google play whatsoever. In what important sense should they be counted as “Android”?

  3. Here are some interesting numbers that can be derived from the Gartner article. The majority of Samsung’s Smart Phone growth appears to have been the result of cannibalizing their feature phone sales. In addition, Gartner appear to be underestimating Apple’s sales in 2012 by approximately 10% whereas in 2011 the estimate was only 5% low. These differences make Gartner’s growth estimates look significantly worse than Apple’s reported numbers. I guess that means that you should assume that the Samsung numbers have at least a 10% error bar even if they are reported to 6 digits of precision.

    2012Q4 2011Q4 Change Change%
    Samsung Smartphones 64,500 34,865 29,635 85.00
    Samsung Feature 42,458 58,965 -16.508 -28.00
    Samsung Total 106,958 93,830 13,127 13.99
    Nokia 85,055 111,699 -26,645 -23.85
    Apple 43,457 35,456 8,001 22.57
    Apple Earnings 47,789 37,044 10,745 29.01

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.