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Nokia ships a third as many smart phones as it did a year ago

Nokia says the drop is down to competition from rivals, and the not-so-gradual decline of Symbian phones.

Nokia shipped just a third as many smart phones in the last three months of 2012 as it did in the same period a year before -- a meagre 6.6 million mobiles, compared to 19.6 million in the  last three months of 2011.

The wince-inducing decline was revealed as part of Nokia's quarterly earnings report (PDF link). While our favourite Finnish phone-makers did manage to turn a profit both in that three-month period, and in 2012 as a whole, smart phone sales figures make for less inspiring reading.

That 6.6 million is made up of 4.4 million Lumia phones and 2.2 million Symbian smart phones, shipped between October and December last year. (That's units shipped to shops, as opposed to sold to actual paying punters.)

Nokia blames the overall drop in numbers on fierce smart phone competition, as well as a decline in the number of Symbian phones being built as the company transitions to Windows Phone.

As well as Lumia and Symbian mobiles, Nokia also sells dirt-cheap Asha phones -- some of which are smart phones, some just feature phones. If you add the 9.3 million Asha sales into the mix, Nokia's total volume for the quarter was 15.9 million mobiles, though that's still significantly less than the 19.6 million it managed during the same period in 2011.

Lumia light at the end of the tunnel?

Lumia phones are proving more popular in North America, with sales increasing by 40 per cent. It still shipped only 700,000 units in the fourth quarter, but the growth is a sign that our US cousins may finally be getting a little more excited about Windows Phone.

4.4 million Lumia smart phones isn't a bad number of gadgets to sell in three months (it's up on last year, when Nokia boasted of selling "well over 1 million Lumia devices"), but compare very badly to Apple's recently revealed sales figures. Tim Cook and company managed to shift a whopping 47.8 million iPhones in the same length of time, despite both companies releasing flagship smart phones towards the end of the year.

So far, it seems, Nokia's gamble on Windows Phone hasn't paid off. Should the Finnish firm have bet on Android instead, or will Microsoft's operating system prove a winner in the long run? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.