Market research firm Strategy Analytics said on Friday that -- thanks to a broad product lineup offering consumers choice at many price points -- Samsung would widen its smartphone lead over Apple globally in 2013.
Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in an e-mail interview:
We expect Samsung to slightly extend its lead over Apple this year because of its larger multitier product portfolio.
Strategy Analytics believes that global smartphone shipments will rise 27 percent in 2013, to 875 million this year. While a decent rise, that is a slowdown from 2012, when smartphone shipments spiked 41 percent. Growth is slowing in many key markets such as North America, China, the developed economies of Asia, and Western Europe as more consumers adopt smartphones, leaving less to switch from feature phones.
SA's forecast is that Samsung will sell 290 million smartphones this year, up from an estimated 215 million last year, amounting to about a 35 percent rise. Meanwhile, Apple's smartphone sales are projected to reach 180 million in 2013, up about a third from 2012.
If those figures hold, Samsung will own about 1/3, or 33 percent of the 2013 smartphone market, up from last year's estimated 31 percent. Meanwhile, Apple will hold 21 percent, versus last year's 20 percent.
There is a way Apple could -- at least somewhat -- stem the Korean tide, said SA. Apple could release a lower-priced iPhone mini, which has long been rumored. The iPhone mini wouldn't just be smaller; it would also be cheaper, cheap enough for Apple to offer it unsubsidized for less than $200. Mawston said:
Samsung plays in more segments and this should enable it to capture more volume than Apple (assuming Apple does not launch an "iPhone Mini" this year).
What about that iPhone mini? Brian J. White, a researcher at Topeka Capital Markets, predicted on Wednesday that Apple will launch the next iPhone, the iPhone 5S, in May or June and that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company would offer more screen-size options, opening the door for an iPhone mini.
Mawston does not believe that would happen this year.
We think Apple will have to launch an "iPhone Mini" at some point over the next three years to address the hundreds of millions of prepaid users worldwide that cannot afford the current iPhone.
The iPhone 5 is growing fast and profitably right now, so there is little incentive for Apple to launch an "iPhone Mini" this year.
We expect the iPhone Mini to be more likely next year, in 2014 when ... Apple will be forced to discover fresh growth streams.
Samsung Electronics, is currently tops in the world for both cell phones and smartphones. Much of that growth is due to the number of different form factors that Samsung has available.
Although most of that was due to Android, Samsung appears to be hedging its bets. It just announced it will be shipping Tizen-based handsets later this year; it's already supporting Windows Phone, and there is the distinct possibility it will ship Ubuntu for Android handsets, too.