Global smartphone shipments surged 55 percent in the fourth quarter, as demand for Apple's iPhone 4S countered declines by Research In Motion (RIM) and Nokia, International Data Corporation (IDC) said. Shipments advanced to 158 million units from 102 million a year earlier, exceeding IDC's forecast for a gain of 40 percent, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based research firm said yesterday in a statement. "So-called 'hero' devices, such as Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Apple's iPhone 4S, garner the bulk of the attention heaped on the device type," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. "But a growing number of sub-$250 device offerings, based on the Android operating system, have allowed Google's hardware partners to grow smartphone volumes and expand the market concurrently," he added.
Smartphone demand is increasing as prices for devices become more affordable, encouraging users to upgrade to handsets on which they can browse the Web and send e-mail. Existing users are also trading up to more powerful smartphones such as the iPhone 4S, which went on sale in October.
Apple sold 37 million iPhones last quarter, helping the Cupertino, California-based company to double its profit in the period. By the end of 2011, one out of every three mobile phones shipped worldwide was a smartphone, and the iPhone 4S "played a key role in smartphone growth to capture pent-up demand," Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said in the statement. Apple's share of the global smartphone market jumped to 24 percent from 16 percent a year earlier, regaining its top spot from Samsung Electronics, which had overtaken the iPhone-maker in the third quarter. Suwon, Korea-based Samsung's share climbed to 23 percent in the fourth quarter from 9.4 percent a year earlier, IDC said. While Apple tightly controls iPhone hardware and software, Google makes the Android mobile device operating system available free to smartphone manufacturers who have been building it into ranks of handsets.
Android and iPhone smartphones accounted for slightly more than 90 percent of US smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2011, industry-tracker NPD Group reported on Monday.