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Samsung, Apple dominate as 700M smartphones ship in 2012

Handset makers shipped a record number of smartphones last year, says Strategy Analytics, as the market saw robust but slower growth over 2011.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

A record 700 million smartphones shipped last year, with Samsung and Apple together accounting for half the market, according to new research released today.

While global smartphone shipments increased 490.5 million units over 2011, the 43 percent growth rate slowed in comparison to 2011's growth rate of 64 percent over 2010, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics. The research blamed saturation in North America and Western Europe for the slower growth.

"Large marketing budgets, extensive distribution channels, and attractive product portfolios have enabled Samsung and Apple to tighten their grip on the smartphone industry," the market researcher said in a blog post today.

Samsung captured 30 percent of the market with 213 million smartphones shipped worldwide, blowing away the previous record of 100 million smartphones shipped by Nokia in 2010. The study said the company had success with a wide range of models, from the pricier Galaxy Note 2 phablet to the less-expensive Galaxy Y.

Apple captured 19 percent of the market with 135.8 million units shipped last dyear, a 46 percent increase over 2011. The iPhone maker benefited from strong demand in North America but was hobbled by limited presence in developing markets such as Africa, the researchers said.

Nokia retained its position as the No. 3 smartphone maker in 2012, but its market share dropped from 16 percent to 5 percent.

"Nokia's Windows Phone portfolio has improved significantly in recent months, with new models like the Lumia 920, but we believe the vendor still lacks a true hero model in its range that can be considered an Apple iPhone or Samsung S3 killer," Strategy Analytics said.

Meanwhile, the global mobile phone market, which includes feature phones, was largely flat, growing only 2 percent with 1.6 billion units shipped in 2012. The study blamed the market's modest growth on a variety of causes, including tighter upgrade policies, changing consumer tastes, and economic challenges in North American and Western Europe.