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Mobile phone growth rate flat, Android growth rate surges

As mobile phone users around the world upgrade to smartphones, they are overwhelmingly choosing Android. Google’s operating system was installed on more than one-third of all mobile phones that shipped last quarter, and on more than two-thirds of all smartphones.

Research firm Canalys estimates that 438 million mobile phones shipped during the fourth quarter of 2012, roughly the same number as in the year-ago quarter. But a much larger portion of those were smartphones – 216.5 million or just under 50% of the total. Canalsys says Q4 smartphone shipments were up 37% from the year-ago quarter.

The numbers from Canalys are very close to those released last month by IDC, which estimated total Q4 smartphone shipments at 219.4 million. Both firms ranked Samsung as the market leader with roughly 63 million smartphones shipped. (Samsung does not publicly report shipment numbers for its mobile devices.)

Apple is of course the No. 2 vendor in the worldwide smartphone market; the company said last month that it shipped 47.8 million iPhones last quarter. In the United States, Apple remains the leading smartphone vendor with more than one-third of the market by some estimates.

Canalys and IDC both rank China’s Huawei as the world’s No. 3 smartphone vendor, with about 11 million units shipped during the fourth quarter. The two research firms differ on who ranks No. 4 and No. 5. Canalys thinks that ZTE shipped 10.1 million phones and Lenovo shipped 9.5 million; IDC thinks Sony shipped 9.8 million and ZTE 9.5 million.

All the top five smartphone vendors ranked by both firms make primarily Android phones. Mobile operators are hoping that a third operating system will emerge as a serious competitor to Android and Apple’s iOS, but right now BlackBerry and Microsoft’s Windows combine for just 10% market share.

“BlackBerry, Microsoft and Nokia, as well as other Android vendors, have strategies and devices in place to attack, but the task is daunting to say the least,” said Pete Cunningham, principal analyst at Canalys. “Vendors left in the wake of the top vendors must at the very least improve their portfolios, time-to-market and marketing, as well as communicate their differentiators. Microsoft, BlackBerry and other new OS entrants, such as Mozilla, must make the OS switch as simple as possible and drive and localize their respective app and content ecosystems.”

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Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse is the publisher of Network Builder Reports ( At RCR, Martha authored more than 20 in-depth feature reports and more than 2,400 news articles. She also created the Mobile Minute and the 5 Things to Know Today series. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York and managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Martha is the board president of Austin's Trinity Center and is a member of the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum.

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