Samsung and Apple have been neck-and-neck in a race toward mobile device dominance for years, but a report published Friday by industry analyst IHS iSuppli has finally crowned a winner for 2011.
According to the report, South Korean-based Samsung outsold Apple by approximately 2 million smartphones, and saw an "explosive" year-over-year growth of 278 percent.
Throughout 2011, Samsung sold approximately 95 million smartphones globally, while Apple trailed behind with a still massive 93 million. The report attributed Samsung’s success to its broad offering of mobile devices and operating systems. While Apple’s smartphone portfolio consists exclusively of the iPhone and iOS, its competitor offers a range devices that support both Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone platforms.
Put simply, Samsung offers consumers more of a choice.
"Samsung advanced in 2011 because of its strategy of offering a complete line of smartphone products, spanning a variety of price points, features and operating systems," said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS. "This enabled Samsung to move past perennial market leader Nokia and to slightly exceed Apple’s total for the year."
In its fourth quarter earnings statement Friday, Samsung said the operating profit of its Telecommunication group was a quarterly record of 17.82 trillion won ($A14.9 billion). It attributed the segment’s growth to strong sales of its Android-based Samsung’s Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note smartphones.
The company also offers Samsung Focus and Samsung Exec smartphones that run on Microsoft Windows Phone OS, but it did not disclose how many units it shipped of each smartphone line.
IHS iSuppli did note that Apple outsold Samsung in the fourth quarter of last year by one million devices due to the introduction of the iPhone 4S, but Samsung still came out on top for the year.
"Apple’s introduction of the 4S in the fourth quarter unleashed tremendous pent-up demand for the iPhone as consumers awaited the arrival of the latest model," said Lam. "This caused the company’s smartphone shipments to surge, allowing it to retake market leadership by a slight margin."
Overall, though, Lam said the two rivals are "setting up a tight battle for leadership that will continue throughout 2012."
Behind Apple, Nokia was the third biggest smartphone vendor in 2011 with 77 million units, followed by Sony Ericson in fourth place, and Motorola Mobility in fifth.
While still the third largest vendor, Nokia saw the biggest decline year-over-year. The Finnish company held the top spot in 2010 with 100 million units – beating out both Apple and Samsung – but saw a 23 percent drop in sales in 2011, with its 77 million count.