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Mobile phone shipments topped 1.7 billion in 2012

25 Jan 2013
Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini smartphone running Android 4.1 slanted view

A strong fourth quarter helped push worldwide mobile phone shipments to 1.7 billion units in 2012.

Research firm IDC said that over the final three months of the year, manufacturers shipped some 473.4 million devices, up 1.9 percent over the same period in 2011. For the full year, shipments grew 1.2 percent.

Most of that growth was driven by the smartphone sector. The research firm pegged fourth quarter shipments at 219.4 million units, up 36.4 percent over 2011. For the full year, shipments topped 712.6 million units, up 44.1 percent on the previous year.

Samsung once again led the charge for smartphones, shipping 63.7 million units in the quarter and claiming a 29 percent market share. Apple was second with 47.8 million units shipped and a 21.8 percent share of the market.

While the top two smartphone vendors comprise more than 50 percent of the total market, analysts see room for smaller vendors to step in and establish their position on the market.

"Vendors with unique market advantages, such as lower-cost devices, can rapidly gain market share, especially in emerging markets," said IDC senior research analyst Kevin Restivo.

"A good example is Huawei, which overtook LG as a Top 5 vendor in the overall mobile phone market and passed HTC to become a Top 5 smartphone vendor."

The numbers from emerging markets could prove encouraging to handset vendors. In such developing economies, cost and infrastructure limitations have made mobile phones the preferred means for connecting to the internet.

Recently, Ericsson chief executive Hans Vestberg predicted that low-cost smartphones and 3G broadband networks will prove invaluable in the coming years for many developing areas.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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