Samsung Overtakes Nokia to Become the World's Biggest Mobile Seller

May 1, 2012
After a 14-year reign, Nokia surrenders its crown to the rising smartphone giant.

After 14 years at the top, Nokia (IW 1000/61) has finally been overtaken by Samsung (IW 1000/12) as the world leader in mobile sales.

We can't say we didn't see this coming.

Over the last few months, Nokia has been hit with an avalanche of bad news. Even with its partnership with Microsoft Corp. (IW 500/16) to release the ambitious new Lumia 900 smartphone and the wildly aggressive marketing campaign that accompanied it, the company has found itself unable to capture its share of the market, posting a $1.2 billion loss last quarter.

As a result, the company has been downgraded by both S&P and Moody's, which maintained its negative rating, prompting a preemptive announcement by for Nokia's chairman, Jorma Ollila on Finnish TV last week announcing its fall from the top.

Through all of this, Samsung's Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II smartphones have sent the company on a sort of meteoric rise, boasting a record $4.4 billion in first quarter profits and a staggering 267% increase in smartphone sales.

After weeks of speculation as to what this profit disparity would mean for the global ranking between the two companies, today's report from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker finally confirmed that Samsung has taken the lead. And by a rather wide margin, too.

"The halcyon days of rapid growth in the smartphone market have been good to Samsung," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program. "Samsung has used its established relationships with carriers in a mix of economically diverse markets to gain share organically and at the expense of former high fliers such as Nokia."

With 93.8 million total mobile devices shipped last quarter, Samsung claimed a 23.5% market share, reflecting a 35.4% year over year increase. Nokia, meanwhile, shipped 82.7 million units for a 20.8% share, down 23.8% from last year.

In the booming smartphone market, Nokia fell 50.8% year over year with only 11.9 million units sold, compared to 35.1 million by Apple Inc. (IW 500/14) and 42.2 million by Samsung.

Despite these setbacks, Nokia remains hopeful for renewed vigor through the rest of the year.

"Nokia was number one for 14 years and still has the chance to be so again," Ollila said. "I am absolutely convinced there is a turn-around in sight."

Top Five Mobile Sellers

Top Five Worldwide Total Mobile Phone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Q1 2012


1Q12 Unit

(Units in Millions)

year Change













LG Electronics









Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, May 1, 2012

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