android smartphonesThe last three months of 2012 saw some radical shifts in the performance of smartphone makers with Huawei, Sony and ZTE all gaining and HTC falling. According to new data released by IDC, Samsung and Apple remained the two biggest smartphone makers with Samsung shipping some 63 million units and Apple shipping nearly 48 million devices. However the surprises come in the next three spots in the top five.

In third place is Huawei, which managed to ship nearly 11 million devices from October to December 2012. The company, which has entered the top three for the first time, targeted both the low-end and high-end of the smartphone market. The company is using innovation at the high-end to gain market share. During 2012 the company released the world’s thinnest (6.68 mm) smartphone, the Ascend P1, and 2013 is already looking exciting with devices like the 6.1 inch Ascend Mate already making waves.

After Huawei comes Sony and ZTE with both companies shipping over 9 million handsets each in Q4. The signs are that Sony could be making a strong comeback and ZTE managed to ship more smartphones than feature phones for the first time in the quarter.

Looking at total handset shipments including feature phones, Samsung is still the company to beat with shipments of 111 million devices in Q4 with Nokia and Apple taking second and third place. Although there are some rabid Android fans who would love to see Apple fail at everything,  I think due respect must be accorded to Apple in that it is the third largest mobile phone vendor and yet doesn’t sell any feature phones unlike Samsung, Nokia, ZTE or Huawei.

Looking back over 2012, the top five smartphone makers by shipment where Samsung, Apple, Nokia, HTC and RIM. The big two have 39% and 25% of the market share respectively while the other three all come in at around 6% each. Obviously HTC’s failure to make it in the top five for Q4 shows its current weaker position even though it managed a top five spot for the entire year.

Are you going to buy a new smartphone in 2013? Which manufacturer will you choose?

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems. He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.