INDUSTRY RESEARCH OUTFIT Gartner revealed on Wednesday that global mobile phone sales declined in 2012 for the first time since 2009.
Gartner's latest mobile report that it released today reveals that worldwide mobile phone sales were 1.75 billion in 2012, down 1.7 percent from 2011.
Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner said, "Tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences and intense market competition weakened the worldwide mobile phone market this year."
Despite this decline, 2012 smartphone sales came in at an all time high. In the fourth quarter, smartphone sales topped a record 207.7 million, an increase of almost 40 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.
Sales of feature phones, on the other hand, continue to slide, reaching 264.4 million units in the fourth quarter, down 19.3 percent year-on-year.
Gartner's 2012 mobile report also echoed trends reported by IDC earlier this year. The research firm said that Apple and Samsung's dominance continued throughout 2012, increasing their market share to 52 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 46 percent in the third quarter. What's more impressive is Samsung's dominance of the Android ecosystem, commanding 42.5 percent of the market globally.
"The Android brand is being overshadowed by Samsung's brand with the Galaxy name nearly a synonym for Android phones in consumers' mind share," said Gupta.
Huawei managed to slip into third position with 27 million smartphones shipped throughout the year, but Gartner claimed it will be impossible for the Chinese firm to catch up with the two market leaders.
"There is no manufacturer that can firmly lay claim to the number three spot in global smartphone sales," Gupta added.
"The success of Apple and Samsung is based on the strength of their brands as much as their actual products. Their direct competitors, including those with comparable products, struggle to achieve the same brand appreciation among consumers, who, in a tough economic environment, go for cheaper products over brand."
In terms of operating systems, it will come as no surprise that Android continued to lead the race throughout 2012, according to Gartner's latest numbers. The firm said that Google's mobile operating system reached 69.7 market share in the fourth quarter of 2012, followed by Apple with 20.9 percent and Blackberry with 3.5 percent. Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system came in fourth place with a three percent share as it creeps up on its Canadian rival. µ