Report: First quarter smartphone shipments up 28 percent, Samsung still on top

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It seems as though smartphones couldn’t possibly become an even bigger deal, but the numbers don’t lie: A report from IDC shows smartphone shipments grew by more than 28% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2014. In the first thee months of the year, global smartphone shipments totaled 281.5 million, up from 218.8 million last year.

How much room is there to grow? Well, the entire phone market (including both smartphones and dumbphones) shipped 448.6 million phones over the quarter, almost the same number of phones shipped last year. Because smartphone shipments grew and total phone shipments stayed relatively flat, we can safely infer that the “convert all those dumbphones to smartphones” transition is continuing on pace. Smartphones were almost 63% of all phone shipments last quarter, while they were about 51% of all phones a year ago.

Winners and Losers

IDC breaks down the top five smartphone vendors, from which we can spot some trends.

Samsung: Samsung shipped 85 million smartphones, about 22% more than last year. But the market grew 28%, so its actual market share dipped a little from about 32% to roughly 30%. The company is still dominant, and these small changes in market share aren’t going to change that any time soon.

Apple: Apple shipped almost 17% more smartphones than the first quarter of last year (43.7 million), shrinking its market share by a couple percentage points (down to 15.5% from 17.1%). Most of the conversions from dumbphones to smartphones—where all the big growth is—happen at price points where Apple does not compete. Apple shipped about half as many smartphones as Samsung so far this year.

Huawei: Shipments jumped from 9.3 to 13.7 million units. That’s big growth, but still puts the Chinese company in a distant third place with market share of less than 5%.

Lenovo: From 7.9 to 12.9 million units shipped is huge growth for Lenovo, and puts them just behind Huawei. Lenovo's smartphone business is growing quickly, but they face challenges in high-margin Western markets.

LG: LG’s growth was milder than Lenovo or Huawei, going from 10.3 to 12.3 million smartphones shipped. So it lost a little market share, but it’s still hanging tough just behind Lenovo.

Others: The IDC report lumps everyone else into a big “others” category that accounts for almost half of all smartphone shipments (47.9% - almost 215M units). We don’t know how big of a chunk of that is taken up by HTC, Motorola, Oppo, Sony, or Nokia.

It looks like almost everyone is shipping more phones at the start of this year than they did last year. The vendors are locked in a race to convert the entire mobile phone market to smartphones, and it’s working. Smartphone shipments and market share are just one part of the picture, though: the IDC report doesn’t cover financials at all.

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