Analyzing the world's 12 biggest handset makers in Q1 2013

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The numbers are in, and it's time to make sense of the data. ABI Research's Michael Morgan checks out the world's 12 largest branded cell phone makers in the first quarter of 2013, providing sales data as well as insight into their strategy and competitive position in the market.

Though most research firms only list the market's top five handset makers, ABI lists a full top 12 (and the firm is providing shipment numbers for all of the vendors listed).

A few notes: ABI's numbers represent "sell in," or phone shipments into the retail channel, rather than "sell out," or sales to consumers. Further, ABI's ranking only counts phones that carry the manufacturer's brand. Therefore, phones that bandy a carrier's logo without a hint of which company actually built the device are not counted.

And see ABI's first quarter 2009 rankingssecond quarter 2009 rankings , third quarter 2009 rankingsfourth quarter 2009 rankingssecond quarter 2010 rankingsthird quarter 2010 rankingsfourth quarter 2010 rankingsfirst quarter 2011 rankingssecond quarter 2011 rankingsfourth quarter 2011 rankingsfirst quarter 2012 rankings, second quarter 2012 rankings, third quarter 2012 rankings and fourth quarter 2012 rankings.

(And click here for a look at the first quarter earnings season, and here for a list of the top U.S. wireless carriers in the first quarter.)

First quarter 2013 market share by OEM

OEM shipments from first quarter 2010 to the first quarter 2013

Overall smartphone shipments vs. non smartphones

Analysis from ABI's Michael Morgan

Vendor Q1
2013 shipments (millions of units)
Analysis
Samsung 112.8 Samsung was one of two top OEMs that was able to increase its smartphone shipments from Q4. Continued strength from it's Galaxy line of smartphones and the increasing strength of the Note line kept smartphone shipments growing. It appears that Samsung was one of the few OEMs to capitalize on China's Q1 buying season. While it was Samsung's strength in the premium smartphone segment that built its market leadership, it can be expected that Samsung's strategy for mid-to-low-cost smartphones will be the engine that keeps Samsung at the top over the mid-term.
Nokia 61.9 Nokia shipped 61.9 mllion handsets in Q1 and 6.1 million smartphones. Of the 6.1 miillion smartphones 5.6 million were Windows Phone devices with the remainder made of Symbian devices. With the lowest penetration of smartphones in the global top ten, Nokia is increasingly dependent upon its line of feature phones that are exemplified by its Asha line of devices. In regard to feature phones, the Asha line of devices boasts industry leading functionality, but it is uncertain is these "smartphone-like" feature phones will be able to compete with the growing sub-$100 Android smartphones over time.
Apple 37.4 Q1  2013 results exemplified Apple's key problem: "Anyone who wants an iPhone, already has one." Apple's year-over-year growth dropped from 88% in Q1 2012 to 6.6% in Q1 2013.  The slowed growth of iPhone shipments was accompanied by a massive drop in its stock price as investors worry about the potential for future revenue growth. With strong demand for the iPhone 4S in China, ABI Research is concerned that the iPhone 5 has not done enough to keep Apple's upgrade cycle intact. 
ZTE 16.9 Despite a drop in handset and smartphone shipments in Q1, ZTE was able to keep its penetration of smartphone shipments at 54%. Like other Chinese OEMs, ZTE felt the pressure of Samsung in its key home market of China. ZTE is expected to continue to push itself up the value chain from low-cost handsets into premium smartphones and furthur develop its brand strength and recognition. While upmarket movement is a classic strategy, ABI Research beleives that ZTE should not move up stream at the expense of its core strength in delivering low cost products.
LG 16.2 With yet another sequential quarter of profitablility and shipment growth, LG appears to be one the select few handset OEMs to legitimately turn its business around from the smartphone market disruption that occurred in 2011 and 2012. LG made the right bets on LTE, Android and premium smartphones two years ago, and these bets are officially bearing fruit. ABI Research beleives that if LG can comfortably shift to success in the mid-tier smartphone space, it may be able to move up the top ten ladder over the next two years.
Huawei 14.2 Huawei saw a nice sales boost in Q1 from its key APAC market despite Samsung's increasing presence in the region. While Huawei does have increasing presence in international markets and in particular emerging smartphone markets, it will be increasing important that it defends its position in China. ABI Research beleives that if Huawei's inherent advantages in China cannot hold against Samsung's marketing budget, there will be little to stop Samsung from pushing Huawei back in other developed markets such as Western Europe and North America.
TCL (Alcatel) 8.5 TCL (Alcatel) shipments showed heavy seasonality in Q1 with a 37% sequential drop in shipments. Comparitively, TCL has low brand recognition for a top ten handset OEM, and ABI Research believes that this will prevent TCL (Alcatel) from fending off lower ranked handset OEMs on the rise. 
Sony Mobile   8.1 With the launch of the iPhone 5 and the continued dominance of the Samsung Galaxy line of smartphones, Sony's smartphone efforts may have been lost in the fanfare of others success. Sony remains in the top ten list at No. 8, while other perenials such as HTC and Motorola have lost their ranking for the forseeable future. ABI Research belives that Sony's sequential shipment decline in Q1 signals a need for Sony to throw some strong marketing muscle behind its latest Xperia Z smartphone, and raise its awareness and presence in the North American market.
Lenovo 7.6 Like most China-based handset OEMs, Lenovo shipments decreased in Q1 due to pressure from Samsung in its home market of China. Although the Chinese market offers amazing potential for growth, Chinese OEMs such as Lenovo will need to build global strength in their brands if they want to capture more of their home markets.
BlackBerry (RIM) 6.0 ABI Research would classify BlackBerry's launch of its new BB10 platform a soft launch. With only select markets receiving the Z10 device in the quarter, BlackBerry was only able to move 1M of the new devices in Q1. However, with the Q10 and the Q5 devices coming to play in Q2, BlackBerry will be firing on all cylinders for the rest of 2013. WIth heavy demand build up from consumers waiting for a quality Qwerty smartphone to hit the market, BlackBerry may yet squeeze another golden egg from its old strengths.
HTC 4.5 Despite HTC's well designed One smartphone, initial sales were not enough to stem HTC's shipments decline. ABI Research has done considerable research on this device and found it to be one of the best designed handsets on the market. This goes to show that it is not always the best technology that wins in the mobile market. However, HTC's commitment to increase its marketing spend on the device may be the missing ingredient needed to stem HTC's decline.
Motorola 3.9 With little news about Motorola's X phone, the shipments of its now stale line of smartphones continues to decline. ABI Research believes that Motorola may be shifting away from developing unique branded handsets and moving more towards the development of Android reference designs that other handset OEMs can leverage. While this may help the Android ecosystem at large, the loss of Motorola's brand presence will only cause the sinking division of Google to loose relevance in the smartphone market. 

The raw data

2013 Q1 Handset Shipment Market Share by OEM

Samsung 27.9%
Nokia 15.3%
Apple 9.2%
ZTE 4.2%
LG 4.0%
Blackberry (RIM) 1.5%
Huawei 3.5%
Motorola 1.0%
TCL (Alcatel) 2.1%
Sony Mobile 2.0%
HTC 1.1%
Lenovo 1.9%
Other 28.3%

 

Handset shipments by vendor
Vendor 1Q 2011 2Q 2011 3Q 2011 4Q 2011 1Q 2012 2Q 2012 3Q 2012 4Q 2012 1Q 2013
Nokia 108.5  88.5 106.5 113.5  82.7  83.7  82.9  86.3  61.9
Samsung  70.0  74.0  85.0  93.5  93.8  94.2 102.6 106.5 112.8
LG  24.5  24.8  21.1  20.0  13.7  13.1  14.4  15.4  16.2
Sony Mobile   8.1   7.6   9.5   9.0   7.3   7.4   8.8   8.7   8.1
Motorola   9.0  10.6  12.9  10.3   8.8   8.1   7.3   5.3   3.9
BlackBerry  14.9  13.2  11.8  14.1  11.1   7.8   7.4   6.9   6.0
Apple  18.7  20.3  17.1  37.0  35.1  26.0  26.9  47.8  37.4
HTC   9.7  12.1  13.2  10.1   6.7   8.3   7.1   6.1   4.5
Huawei   9.1  11.9  14.2  16.3  10.5  10.8  12.1  15.0  14.2
ZTE  15.2  19.6  18.9  20.0  18.9  19.7  17.6  20.8  16.9
TCL (Alcatel Mobile Phones)   7.7   8.9   9.4   8.1   7.8  10.8  10.5  13.4   8.5
Lenovo   0.8   0.9   0.9   1.1   2.3   6.8   6.9   9.5   7.6