Analyzing the world's 10 biggest handset makers in Q4 2011

ABI Michael MorganThe numbers are in, and it's time to make sense of the data. ABI Research's Michael Morgan checks out the world's 10 largest branded cell phone makers in the fourth quarter of 2011, 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 the full top 10 (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 rankings, second quarter 2009 rankings , third quarter 2009 rankings, fourth quarter 2009 rankings, second quarter 2010 rankings, third quarter 2010 rankings, fourth quarter 1010 rankings, first quarter 2011 rankings and second quarter 2011 rankings.

(And click here for a look at the fourth quarter earnings season.)

Fourth quarter 2011 market share by OEM

OEM shipments from first quarter 2010 to fourth quarter 2011 

Overall smartphone shipments vs. non smartphones

Analysis from ABI's Michael Morgan

Nokia Nokia handset shipments grew 6.6 percent sequentially as its market share of shipments dropped to 26.7 percent. Nokia's smartphone shipments decreased from 28.3 million in Q4 2010 to 19.6 million in Q4 2011 with further decreases expected as Nokia aggressively switches to the Windows Phone platform. With no plan B, Nokia is in a race to outpace its decreasing Symbian smartphone sales by growing its Windows Phone shipments. Nokia states it had shipped over 1 million WP7 devices to a limited set of markets, which raises the question, will a U.S. launch of WP7 be enough to turn the tide for Nokia? ABI Research is not so sure. 
Samsung Samsung continued to inch closer to the number one handset vendor in Q4. ABI Research believes that Samsung has a strong chance to become number one by the end of 2012. Despite numerous legal battles with Apple, Samsung achieved shipment growth in both handsets and smartphones in Q4. Samsung's tweener device the Note received a warm welcome in Korea and is capturing a lot of advertising dollars as it is launched in the US. Whether Samsung is able to define a new device segment as Apple did with the iPad has yet to be seen. Looking through 2012, ABI Research beleives all eyes will be on the competition between Samsung and Apple as the two handset OEMs that are pulling away from the feild.
Apple iPhone A large increase in Apple shipments was expected in Q4, yet Apple far surpased anyone's expectations in Q4 leaving ABI Research to wonder how Apple was able to deliver such a large shipment increase in just a single quarter without some forsight into the 'unexpected' success of the iPhone 4S. For the year, Apple was able to move into 3rd position in terms of overall handset shipments and 1st for smartphone shipments by a 300k margin over Samsung's smartphone tally.
ZTE ZTE has made a name for itself with low cost handsets in emerging/developing markets such as India, China, LATAM and Africa. ZTE's focus on emerging markets has served it well as Nokia continues to  bleed share in these segments which  are predicted to deliver the greatest number of new wireless customers in the coming years. As China rises, ZTE is positioned to benefit from Nokia's failings and the growth of China's homegrown 3G networks. On the smartphone of the market, ZTE has acheived its goal to ship 12 million smartphones in 2011 (up from 3 million in 2010). Given the expected growth of $150 smartphones in 2012, ABI Research believes ZTE is well positioned to capture its fair share of this market segment in emerging markets such as China and Africa and at global prepaid smartphone operators in general
LG LG's shipments continued to decline in Q4 and LG has slipped to 4th place behind ZTE. Despite the gloomy sales, LG's Optimus LTE device had shipped 600,000 units Q4 showing that perhaps LG will be experiencing future success in the high end of smartphones. LG announced that it would be raising capital, which ABI Research believes will need to spent carefully to ensure positive momentum in LG's uncertain profitability.
Huawei Historically considered a low cost Chinese handset OEM ,Huawei shares the international  stage with ZTE and TCL/Alcatel, as a rising star in China. Huawei has leveraged its prolific set of carrier infrastructure relationships to deploy its low cost handsets in nearly every region. Huawei continues to grow from low cost handsets to low cost Android smartphones and like its Chinese brethren is one of the few OEM's that can deliver a sub-$150 smartphone today. With China's appetite for data and smartphone's increasing everyday, Huawei is well positioned to serve all elements of China's handset needs and is one of a select few to acheive international success.
BlackBerry Q4 was a another tough quarter for RIM as its smartphone shipments declined 0.7 percent from Q4 2010. Although RIM's international shipments did increase, it was not enough to offset RIM's decline in the North American market. As Apple and Samsung continue to suck the air out of the room, RIM has installed a new CEO and delayed the release of its upcoming BB10 smartphones until Q4 2012. 2012 looks to be a very trying and pivotal year for RIM as it seeks to make a Nokia style transition to a new platform while continuing to support weakened legacy platforms.
TCL (Alcatel) TCL is a well-known electronics brand in China that had formed a joint venture with Alcatel of France to leverage new markets and carrier relationships. For TCL, the strong growth  sales of entry- to mid-level devices in EMEA and LATAM. The Alcatel / TCL device portfolio is a mix of low- end candy bar devices and colorful clamshell devices with basic media capabilities.  Most TCL handsets are designed to meet the universal needs of all regions served by Alcatel and TCL, allowing for greater production volume per device model. TCL's effecient prodcution has allowed it to offer low cost 3G handsets that are sought after by consumers moving from 2G. TCL is continuing to leverage its low cost production capabilities to offer sub $150 Android smartphones, and remains one of the few OEMs that can do that today.
Motorola Motorola sales in North America remained flat as the iPhone dampened the sale of LTE hero devices at Verizon Wireless and other operators. On the verge of becoming an extension of Google, Motorola Mobility remains stuck in the middle of the pack of Android smartphone OEMs. 
HTC HTC had pledged that the expected meteoric rise of 4G/LTE smartphones would drive continued shipment growth for the company. Q4 has shown HTC that growth may not be so easy to come by. With strong LTE competition from LG, Motorola and Samsung, adding to the iPhone taking away LTE sales, HTC shipments suffered a 23 percent decline which is expected to continue through Q1. HTC blames the poor battery life of its original LTE devices on poor sales and will double down on it LTE efforts in 2H 2012 as better LTE chipset solutions come to market.

The raw data

2011 Q4 Handset Shipment Market Share by OEM

Nokia 26.7%
Samsung 22.9%
Apple iPhone 8.7%
ZTE 5.7%
LG 4.2%
Huawei 3.8%
Blackberry 3.3%
TCL (Alcatel) 2.7%
Motorola 2.4%
HTC 2.4%
Other 17.1%

Worldwide Handset Shipments by Vendor: 1Q-2010 to 4Q-2011 (millions)
  1Q 2010 2Q 2010 3Q 2010 4Q 2010

(full year)

1Q 2011 2Q 2011 3Q 2011 4Q 2011 2011
(full year)
Nokia 107.8 111.1 110.4 123.7 453.0 108.5  88.5 106.5 113.5 417.0
Samsung  64.3  63.8  71.4  80.7 280.2  70.0  74.0  85.0  93.5 322.5
LG  27.1  30.6  28.4  30.6 116.7  24.5  24.8  21.1  20.0  90.4
SonyEricsson  10.5  11.0  10.4  11.2  43.1   8.1   7.6   9.5   9.0  34.2
Motorola   8.5   8.3   9.1  11.3  37.2   9.0  10.6  12.9  10.3  42.8
Blackberry  10.5  11.2  12.1  14.2  48.0  14.9  13.2  11.8  14.1  54.0
Apple iPhone   8.8   8.4  14.1  16.2  47.5  18.7  20.3  17.1  37.0  93.1
HTC   3.3   5.4   6.8   9.1  24.6   9.7  12.1  13.2  10.1  45.1
Huawei   6.1   6.7   6.9   7.7  27.4   9.1  11.9  14.2  16.3  51.6
ZTE   8.0   9.9   8.6   9.6  36.1  15.2  19.6  18.9  20.0  73.6
TCL (Alcatel Mobile Phones)   2.9   7.6   9.0  12.5  32.0   7.7   8.9   9.4   8.1  34.0
Others  45.3  47.2  59.0  63.1 214.6  72.5  80.6  69.3  72.5 295.0
Total 303.0 321.2 346.2 390.0 1360.4 367.8 372.2 388.8 424.4 1553.3
Analyzing the world's 10 biggest handset makers in Q4 2011