Android accounted for more than half of all smartphone sales in the first quarter this year, according to research.
Gartner analysts found that Google's Android OS made up 56.1 per cent of sales, and said that differentiation in the smartphone market is becoming a challenge for manufacturers.
“This is particularly true for smartphones based on the Android OS, where a strong commoditization trend is at work and most players are finding it hard to break the mould,” said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.
“At the high end, hardware features coupled with applications and services are helping differentiation, but this is restricted to major players with intellectual property assets.
“However, in the mid to low-end segment, price is increasingly becoming the sole differentiator.
“This will only worsen with the entry of new players and the dominance of Chinese manufacturers, leading to increased competition, low profitability and scattered market share.”
The survey by Gartner also found that wordlwide sales of mobile phones declined by two per cent in the first quarter of 2012 from the first quarter of 2011.
Mobile sales to end users dropped to 419.1 million units, the first time since the second quarter of 2009 that the market exhibited a decline.
“Global sales of mobile devices declined more than expected due to a slowdown in demand from the Asia/Pacific region,” said Gupta.
“The first quarter, traditionally the strongest quarter for Asia – which is driven by Chinese New Year, saw a lack of new product launches from leading manufacturers, and users delayed upgrades in the hope of better smartphone deals arriving later in the year.”
“The lower results in the first quarter of 2012 have led us to be cautious about sales for the remainder of the year,” said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner.
“The continued roll-out of third generation (3G)-based smartphones by local and regional manufacturers such as Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, Yulong and TCL Communication should help spur demand in China.
“In addition, the arrival of new products in mature markets based on new versions of the Android and Windows Phone operating systems (OSs), and the launch of the Apple iPhone 5 will help drive a stronger second half in Western Europe and North America.
“However, as we are starting to update our market forecast we feel a downward adjustment to our 2012 figures, in the range of 20 million units, is unavoidable.”
Samsung became the world’s top mobile handset vendor during the quarter, displacing Nokia which had held the No. 1 spot since 1998.
Samsung’s mobile phone sales reached 86.6 million units (see Table 1), a 25.9 per cent increase from last year. Samsung took back the world’s No. 1 smartphone position from Apple, selling 38 million smartphones worldwide.
In addition, Samsung’s Android-based smartphone sales in the first quarter of 2012 represented more than 40 per cent of Android-based smartphone sales worldwide; no other vendors achieved more than a 10 per cent share of the market.
Sales of smartphones continued to drive mobile device market growth, reaching 144.4 million units in the first quarter of 2012, up 44.7 per cent year-over-year.
This quarter also saw the top two smartphone vendors, Apple and Samsung, raising their combined share to 49.3 per cent, up from 29.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, and widening their lead over Nokia – which saw its smartphone market share drop to 9.2 per cent.
See the full Gartner report