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Samsung Surpasses Nokia to Take Mobile Crown

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Reuters is reporting that its poll of analysts indicates that Samsung’s (005930:KS) cell phone sales for the period of January through March exceeds those of Nokia (HEL:NOK1V; NYSE:NOK), supplanting the Finnish phone maker as the industry’s top manufacturer for the first time in 14 years. Reuters says that on average, analysts estimate Samsung’s sales for the period to be about 88 million handsets, trumping Nokia’s reported 83 million.

For a closer look at how this shift in power took place, Horacio Dediu has estimates for Samsung’s per-quarter sales to compare with those reported by Nokia [1]. Dediu says that Samsung is estimated to have shipped about 85 million phones, surpassing Nokia’s 83 million, in line with Reuters afore mentioned estimates on the conservative end of the scale. As you might have guessed by now, Samsung’s big growth advantage over Nokia is represented almost entirely by its growth in the smartphone space. See Dediu’s chart below which breaks each makers sales down into feature phones and smartphones:

What’s remarkable here is that in a time when one would expect all handset makers to be gradually shifting energies away from feature phones to smartphones, Nokia’s smartphone business has shrunk from 24 percent of its total handset portfolio in Q3 2010 to just 14 percent in Q1 2012, according to Dediu. He adds:

The bet Nokia made many years ago was that there would be a continuing, substantial business in the “low end”. And low end meant feature phones. This strategy was still in evidence last year under the moniker “the next billion” users.

With regards to Asia, there is of course potential in that strategy. But as we’ve written here before, Nokia has found difficulty in China over the past year, and will be looking to new leadership and Windows Phone 7 to help it bounce back. But don’t be surprised to see Samsung get comfortable in the number one spot. It’s hard to imagine Nokia rebounding to overtake them given the current trajectory of both companies.


  1. I’m a little reluctant to put weight behind Dediu’s Samsung data, since he doesn’t actually list the source of these numbers, merely saying “We don’t have the total number of Samsung shipments, however estimates exist.” For now, I’m going to place some faith in his widely respected reputation. But if you’re reading this, Horatio, it would be really swell if you could provide a little more attribution for where your figures (in this case, the Samsung figures) come from. Having said that, I confess, I am a big fan of his work.  ↩



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