Approximately 196 million smartphones and 451 million handsets were shipped during the final quarter of 2012, bringing the annual totals to 653 million smartphones and 1.6 billion handset shipments, according to marketing intelligence firm, ABI research.
The growth can be attributed in large part to the popularity of Samsung and Apple mobile devices.
While the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 have led in sales in 2012, ABI analyst Michael Morgan noted that we’ve seen the peak of Apple's market share, which is expected to plateau at 22 percent in 2013.
“It is clear that the iPhone's hyper-growth has ended, and ABI Research believes that Apple’s market share will peak in 2013,” said Morgan. “Unless Apple is willing to trade iPhone margins for low cost iPhone shipments, Apple’s handset market share will become dependent on customer loyalty.”
Samsung shipped 106 million handsets in Q4, with 60 percent of those sales being smartphones. The company's most popular product – its Samsung Galaxy line – has accumulated over 100 million sales to date.
The latest model, the Galaxy S3, recently posted 40 million units sold worldwide since its release early last year.
Despite missing most analyst estimates in Q4, Apple grew its smartphone shipment share to 24.5 percent – up from 16.4 percent in Q3. Apple shipped 47.8 million iPhones in Q4, bringing its 2012 annual total to 135.8 million units.
The firm’s 2012 annual shipment growth declined from 96 percent in 2011 to 46 percent in 2012.
“Samsung and Apple are both under pressure to maintain their market lead as less costly smartphones gain momentum entering 2013,” noted senior practice director, Jeff Orr. “Technology optimization choices and a diverse handset portfolio are critical decisions over the next six to nine months to come out ahead.”
ABI Research is also predicting what it calls a “phablet avalanche” in 2013. The company defines phablets as “smartphones measuring between 4.6 inches and 6.5 inches.” Over 83 million phablets were shipped in 2012 (a rise of 4,504 percent from 2011), and the research firm projects that 150 million will ship this year – accounting for 18 percent of all smartphones.
The most popular phablet in the marketplace right now is Samsung's Galaxy Note 2. ABI expects that Apple will enter the phablet competition later this year with its own device.
Edited by Braden Becker