A new survey out today shows that not only is China the fastest growing market for smartphone sales, but that Chinese brands were the fastest growing in the third quarter of 2013.
The Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report from the research firm IDC shows that smartphone sales grew by 38.8 percent in the July through September period to 258.4 million units shipped, a new record. But digging further into the numbers, we see that the fastest growing brands were Lenovo, which grew by 77.6 percent over the third quarter of 2012, and Huawei, which grew by 75.6 percent. The Korea-based LG was the third fastest growing brand with a 71.4 percent gain.
All three of those smartphone brands run the Google Android mobile operating system and the smartphones sold by market leader Samsung, also based in Korea, run Android.
"Price points have declined significantly, driven largely by low-cost Android solutions,” said Ryan Reith, program director IDC’s Tracker research. “This has helped China to become one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world, accounting for more than one third of all shipments last quarter. We expect this trend to continue going forward."
The top five smartphone vendors, along with their unit sales and market share, are: Samsung (81.2 million, 31.4 percent), Apple (33.8 million, 13.1 percent), Huawei (12.5 million, 4.8 percent), Lenovo (12.3 million, 4.7 percent), LG (12 million, 4.6 percent).
What’s also interesting is the growth in the sales of brands lumped together as “Others.” Their sales grew by 32.4 percent to 106.6 million units compared to the third quarter of 2012. IDC notes that two other hot-selling smartphone brands, though not in the top five, were Coolpad and ZTE, both from China.
Apple, the only American brand in the smartphone market, saw its sales grow by 25.7 percent to 33.8 million units, although its market share slipped to 13.1 percent from 14.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012. IDC says Apple had a successful quarter due to the release during the quarter of the iPhone 5S and 5C. Apple shipped 9 million of the new models in the quarter.
This latest report doesn’t rank smartphone sales by operating system but the top brand, Samsung, and the fastest-growing brands, Huawei, Lenovo, all run the Android OS. That’s good news and bad news for all of them, said Ramon Llamas, an IDC research manager.
“Moving forward, what remains to be seen is how the various companies and platforms will stay differentiated and relevant in the increasingly competitive market,” Llamas said.
On the other hand, a rising tide lifts all boats, as IDC forecasts a strong fourth quarter and the potential for sales to hit the 1 billion mark for the whole year. For all of 2011, Llamas noted, sales only hit a half a billion units.
One final note, Nokia shipped 8.8 million units in the third quarter, not enough to include it in the top five. Nokias run the Windows Phone 8 mobile OS from Microsoft, which entered into an agreement with Nokia in 2011 to install its OS on Nokia smartphones. In September, Microsoft acquired Nokia’s handset business altogether for $7 billion.
While Nokia didn’t make the top five, there is reason to believe that the growth potential of the Windows Phone platform could get Nokia back into the top five, at least someday.