Huawei, ZTE blast LG, HTC, Nokia and others out of global smartphone rankings

Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE in the fourth quarter displaced the likes of HTC, LG Electronics, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) in the rankings of the world's largest smartphone vendors.

According to research firm IDC, Huawei and ZTE took the No. 3 and No. 5 global smartphone spots, respectively. While Samsung Electronics and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) continue to lead the global smartphone market by a large margin, the two Chinese firms have proven their mettle in both their home markets and, increasingly, in Western markets as well.

Huawei shipped 10.8 million smartphones in the fourth quarter and captured 4.9 percent of the global smartphone market in the quarter, up from 5.7 million units and 3.5 percent in the year-ago period, according to IDC. IDC also said ZTE shipped 9.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter and got 4.3 percent of the market, up from 6.4 million units and 4 percent in the year-ago quarter. Sony Mobile Communications nabbed the No. 4 spot with 9.8 million units, IDC said.

However, for the full year 2012, IDC had Samsung, Apple, Nokia, HTC and RIM as the top five smartphone vendors, in that order.

During the past 12 months, Huawei has rocketed up the world's smartphone vendor rankings. "To reach this milestone, Huawei has courted both the mass market with its simple and inexpensive smartphones and the high-end of the market with its Ascend-branded product line," IDC noted.

Likewise, IDC analysts noted that ZTE remained among the top 5 global smartphone players thanks to continued efforts to find more markets. "The vendor also shipped more smartphones than feature phones for the first time, " IDC noted. "ZTE has grown its smartphone sales of late thanks primarily to an uptick in lower-cost smartphone sales in many emerging markets. The company has traditionally relied on sales of phones to China, where the company is based. Notable progress has been made in developed markets, too."

Research firm Strategy Analytics did not detail its top five smartphone vendors for the quarter, instead only noting figures for Samsung, Apple and Nokia. Both firms, however, noted similar growth in the smartphone market in the fourth quarter. Strategy Analytics found that global smartphone shipments grew 38 percent annually to 217 million units in the period, from 157 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. Overall, total global smartphone shipments for the full year reached a record 700.1 million units in 2012, increasing from 490.5 million units in 2011, Strategy Analytics said.

Likewise, IDC found that globally, handset vendors shipped 219.4 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, which represents 45.5 percent of all mobile phone shipments, the highest percentage ever. The 36.4 percent year-over-year growth from 160.8 million smartphones shipped in the fourth quarter of 2011 was slightly below IDC's forecast of 39.5 percent for the quarter.

Looking at the total global handset market, including both smartphones and feature phones, both firms reported minimal growth for the fourth quarter, with Strategy Analytics recording that the market grew around 2.6 percent and IDC saying it grew 1.9 percent. IDC had Samsung, Nokia, Apple, ZTE and Huawei, in that order, as the top five handset makers by volume in the fourth quarter, and Samsung, Nokia, Apple, ZTE and LG as the top five for all of 2012.

For more:
- see this Strategy Analytics release
- see this separate Strategy Analytics release
- see this IDC release
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this CNET article
- see this The Verge article

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