Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has benefited from an increasing consumer shift from feature phones to smartphones in the worldwide market, reports market research firm Gartner. Apple, maker of the high-end iPhone 5S and the mid-range iPhone 5C, saw its share of the worldwide mobile phone market grow from 7.5 percent in 2012 to 8.3 percent in 2013. According to Gartner’s data, worldwide smartphone sales accounted for 53.6 percent of overall mobile phone sales in 2013, surpassing annual feature phone sales for the first time.
Apple was the third largest vendor of mobile phones behind second-ranked Nokia (NYSE:NOK), which had a 13.9 percent share. However, Nokia’s market share also significantly decreased from the 19.1 percent share it held in 2012. Samsung (SSNLF.PK) maintained its position as the No. 1 mobile phone vendor with a 24.6 percent share of the overall mobile phone market.
While Apple increased its share of the overall mobile phone market and sold more iPhone units in 2013 than it sold in 2012, the California-based company actually lost global smartphone market share in 2013 due to the growing low-end smartphone market. According to Gartner, Apple’s share of the worldwide smartphone market decreased to 15.6 percent in 2013, compared to 19.1 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, overall worldwide sales of smartphones increased 42.3 percent from 2012 with 968 million units sold in 2013.
Although Apple reported sales of 51 million iPhones in the fourth-quarter of calendar 2013, Gartner estimated sales of 50.2 million units. Per Gartner, Apple’s share of the global smartphone market slipped to 17.8 percent in the fourth-quarter of 2013, from 20.9 percent in the year-ago quarter.
However, the market research firm also noted that Apple may soon see increased sales in Asian markets from several recently signed distribution deals. “Apple’s share in smartphone declined both in the fourth-quarter of 2013 and in 2013, but growth in sales helped to raise share in the overall mobile phone market,” wrote Gartner principal research analyst Anshul Gupta. “With Apple adding NTT DOCOMO (NYSE:DCM) in Japan for the first time in September 2013 and signing a deal with China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) during the quarter, we are already seeing an increased growth in the Japanese market and we should see the impact of the last deal in the first quarter of 2014.”
It should also be noted that Apple’s premium devices are placed in the same category with low-end smartphones that are actually used by consumers as feature phones. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted the differences between cheap smartphones and premium smartphones in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal.
“I look at the mobile phone market as having three kinds of phones: feature phones, smartphones that function as or are used as feature phones, and real smartphones,” Cook told the Wall Street Journal. “I care about the market share of the last one.” In this sense, Apple’s share of the “real” smartphone market is likely even larger than what Gartner’s data may indicate.
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