February smartphone market share indicates Samsung will have another record quarter

Counterpoint Technology Market Research (Counterpoint Research hereafter), a pioneer in smartphone market data, has published its monthly report of the global smartphone market which analyzes and aggregates data from 25 markets globally to get the pulse of the market.

Some key takeaways
– Samsung is selling close to 25 million smartphones a month. We expect it to sell more than 70 million units in Q1.
– Apple is also selling record numbers but the large inventory overhang from December has not been cleared.
Therefor Q1 shipments might only reach 35 million.
– Chinese vendors have almost doubled sales compared to the same period last year. LG is the only other vendor showing good sales in the first two months of 2013.

January and February smartphone sales were strong in a historically low season indicating good shipment numbers for Q1 2013 overall. There are more smartphones in the market than feature phones now; Smartphones crossed the 50% line, of total smartphone share within handset sales. Markets like Japan and Korea show more than 90% share of smartphones.

Samsung continued to rank as the top brand worldwide with 34% market share in the January-February period. Apple followed with 19% share. ZTE, Huawei and LG showed strong sales as the 3 surpassed Nokia during the first 2 months of 2013. The share of the other vendors grew significantly as Chinese local vendors like K-Touch, Gionee and Alcatel OneTouch almost doubled sales compared to the same period a year ago.

Android ranked first place in smartphone operating systems with 70% while iOS was 21% of the market. Windows seems to have established itself firmly as the 3rd operating system as it reached 5% share.

Research Director Peter Richardson explains, “the key driver of smartphone sales growth in the January-February period was the Chinese New Year holiday. It’s not just the Big 3 Chinese brands, Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo who sold impressive volumes. Starting from late last year other tier 2 vendors using the Mediatek solution have been active in the sub $200 smartphone space. Chinese vendors now account for 21% of the smartphone market.”

Of the big international brands only Apple, Samsung and LG showed growth in sales. Apple continues to sell well to the end consumer, but it had a big inventory problem in Q4 2012. Over 10 million additional iPhones were moved into the distribution channel at the end of last year. With less than 15 million units purchased by consumers in February this was not enough to clear the entire excess inventory. So we estimate Apple will end up shipping less than 35 million units in Q1.

Samsung on the other hand started the year with very low inventory and sales to end users are reaching almost 25 million units a month so this will all be translated to sell-in in Q1. Therefore we expect Samsung’s smartphone sales to exceed 70 million units in the quarter.

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