Apple iPhone 4S steals smartphone show in Q4 2011; Samsung wins the year

January 27, 2012 — While Apple’s release of the iPhone 4S in Q4 2011 "unleashed tremendous pent-up demand" from consumers, Samsung used its broad range of smartphones to take the top spot in smartphone brands, reports Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS in an IHS iSuppli News Flash.

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2011 is Samsung’s first turn at the number 1 spot in smartphone maker rankings. Global smartphone shipments grew 54% annually to reach a record 155 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, added Alex Spektor, associate director of research firm Strategy Analytics.

Table 1. Shipments of smartphone companies that have reported results for the fourth quarter of 2011 to date. Other major companies that haven’t reported yet are not included. Rankings by shipments in millions of units. SOURCE: IHS iSuppli January 2012.

  Company Q3 ’11 Shipments (Millions) Q4 ’11 Shipments (Millions) Q3 ’11/Q4 ’11 Quarterly Growth 2010 Shipments (Millions) 2011 Shipments (Millions) 2010/2011 Annual Growth
1 Apple 17                37 117%                47                93 96%
2 Samsung 28                36 28%                25                95 278%
3 Nokia 17                20 17%              100                77 -23%
4 Sony Ericsson 6                  6 -5%                13                20 55%
5 Motorola 5                  5 10%                14                19 35%


 Table 2. Global smartphone vendor shipments and market share in Q4 2011. SOURCE: Strategy Analytics January 2012. (Millions of Units)


Q4 ’10     2010     Q4 ’11     2011
Samsung 10.7     23.9     36.5     97.4
Apple 16.2     47.5     37.0     93.0
Nokia 28.3     100.1     19.6     77.3
Others 45.6     128.0     61.9     220.8
Total 100.7     299.5     155.0     488.5
Global smartphone vendor
market share %
Q4 ’10     2010     Q4 ’11     2011
Samsung 10.6%     8.0%     23.5%     19.9%
Apple 16.1%     15.9%     23.9%     19.0%
Nokia 28.1%     33.4%     12.6%     15.8%
Others 45.2%     42.7%     39.9%     45.2%
Total 100.0%     100.0%     100.0%     100.0%
Total growth year-over-Year % 86.8%     71.4%     53.9%     63.1%

Apple shipped 37 million smartphones worldwide in Q4, up 117% from 17 million in Q3 — the strongest sequential quarterly growth among the top 5 smartphone brands, IHS reports. Samsung shipped 36 million smartphones in the same quarter. While this put Apple back on top (Apple also shipped the most smartphones in Q2), Samsung won the year. Samsung shipped 95 million smartphones in 2011, up 278% from the prior year.
Samsung offers "a complete line of smartphone products," for various price points and consumer requirements, Lam said, noting that this strategy carried Samsung past Nokia and Apple. Apple has worked a successful strategy with its iPhone as well: distribution of the iPhone family expanded across numerous countries, dozens of operators and multiple price points in 2011, Strategy Analytics reported.

While Samsung shipped the most smartphones, Apple bought the most semiconductors in 2011, edging out Samsung thanks in part to Apple’s iPad tablet business. "Apple must soon make a decision on whether to jettison Samsung as one of its principal suppliers for chips, screens, and other components. While Samsung has the technology to produce Apple’s components at a high level of efficiency and quality — including the new A6 chip — its expanding role as a principal competitor leaves Apple in an untenable situation. Apple may instead turn to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to produce its A6 chips," noted the US-Taiwan Business Council in a recent report.

"Apple and Samsung continue to run neck and neck in global smartphone shipments, setting up a tight battle for leadership that will continue throughout 2012," Lam predicts. This is a "two-horse race at the forefront of one of the world’s largest and most valuable consumer electronics markets," added Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

Nokia, the previous market leader, dropped to third place with a -23% decline year-over-year. Tom Kang, director at Strategy Analytics, explained, “Nokia’s global smartphone market share halved from 33% in 2010 to 16% in 2011. A lackluster touchscreen smartphone portfolio and a limited presence in the huge United States market caused Nokia’s shrinkage last year. Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft will be very much in focus during 2012, and the industry will be watching closely to see how swiftly the two companies can expand in the high-value 4G LTE market that is rapidly emerging across the United States, Japan and elsewhere.”

The market share battle between Apple and Samsung reflects the competition between the two leading smartphone operating systems and ecosystems: Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. However, the other major Android licensees — Sony Ericsson and Motorola — did not match Samsung’s strong smartphone performance. This may indicate that "the Android smartphone market is becoming too crowded," Lam said.

IHS (NYSE: IHS) provides analysis on energy and power; design and supply chain; defense, risk and security; environmental, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability; country and industry forecasting; and commodities, pricing and cost. Learn more at

Strategy Analytics is a global, independent research and consulting firm. Visit for more information.

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