Take a break from Android-iPhone wars for a moment and focus on another battle smartphones vs. PCs.
In 2011, smartphones for the first time outshipped PCs (including tabs), market analysis firm Canalys is reporting.
Globally, vendors shipped 158.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, up 57 percent during the same quarter one year earlier. This bumper crop brought smartphone shipments for 2011 to a total of 487.7 million units, up two-thirds over 2010.
In comparison, shipments for PCs reached 414.6 million units in 2011.
Chris Jones, Canalys VP and principal analyst, said, “Smartphone shipments overtaking those of client PCs should be seen as a significant milestone. In the space of a few years, smartphones have grown from being a niche product segment at the high-end of the mobile phone market to becoming a truly mass-market proposition.”
He said lower price points gave smartphones a boost as did “increasing consumer appetite for Internet browsing, content consumption and engaging with apps and services on mobile devices.” In Engadget, Daniel Cooper threw some cold water on Canalys, noting that shipped units doesn’t mean sold units. He also said including tabs with PCs is erroneous.
Meanwhile, Canlys found Apple had its cake and ate it, too.
Canalys said, “Apple’s impressive end to the year resulted in it becoming the leading smartphone and client PC vendor in Q4 2011, with shipments of 37.0 million iPhones, 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs. It also smashed the record for the most smartphones shipped globally by any single vendor in one quarter, beating Nokia’s previous record of 28.3 million shipped in Q4 2010. Moreover, Apple’s performance meant that it displaced Nokia, for the first time, as the leading smartphone vendor by annual shipments.”
Apple shipped 93.1 million iPhones in 2011, a 96 percent gain over 2010.
Cooper added: “Looking at smartphones exclusively … Apple remains king of the hill having shipped 93.1million iPhones. Samsung is close behind, with 91.9 million and Nokia is kicking along in third with 19.6 million. For all of the doomsaying around RIM, it's nestled in fourth, although Canalys chose not to include its numbers. Framing the research as ‘PCs versus Smartphones’ isn't the wisest, given the fragmentation and hybridization prevalent in the market today. Drilling down into those numbers, we learn that 63.2 million tablets were pushed out last year, cannibalizing netbook shipments (dropping 34.5 percent in a year), but desktop and laptop movements remained relatively stable.”
2012 doesn’t bode as well after the bullish 2011. Canalys thinks smartphone growth will slow in 2012 as vendors “exercise greater cost control and discipline” and emphasize profits: “Notably, even vendors who have focused on conquering the low-end of the market with aggressive pricing, such as Huawei, ZTE and LG, are now placing greater attention on the higher tiers. Flagship models aimed at raising selling prices and improving margins will feature more heavily this year.”