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Apple grabs huge slice of 2012 consumer technology sales

Consumer tech sales fell 2 percent in the U.S. last year, yet Apple had a good year with almost 20 percent of all sales, says NPD.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Apple's iPhone.
Apple's iPhone. CNET

Apple enjoyed a healthy gain in consumer technology sales last year amid a down market.

The iPhone maker took home 19.9 percent of all consumer technology sales in the U.S., up from 17.3 percent in 2011, according to stats released today by NPD Group.

Based on sales, Apple proved to be the top consumer brand for the year, outshining Samsung, HP, Sony, and Dell. Beyond Apple, only Samsung's cut of revenues rose among the five, reaching 9.3 percent from 7 percent the prior year.

Together, Apple and Samsung scooped up $6.5 billion in higher sales last year, while the rest of the computer industry saw its revenues fall by almost $9.5 billion. Collectively, Apple, Samsung, HP, Sony, and Dell watched their cut of sales rise to 45 percent from 42 percent in 2011.

NPD Group

Among all consumer technology retailers, Best Buy was the top dog in the United States, followed by Walmart, Apple, Amazon, and Staples.

But the rest of the industry didn't fare as well.

Overall consumer technology sales sunk 2 percent last year to around $143 billion, compared with a 1 percent drop in 2011. Last year's decline means that consumer tech sales have fallen by $4 billion since 2010. And part of the problem is simply saturation.

"While [consumer electronics] remains a dynamic industry, the fact is that the stellar growth of the past few years has made growth today more difficult," NPD analyst Stephen Baker said in a statement. "Most market segments have high penetration rates and the demand for additional devices is slowing, or declining. Tablets and smartphones have been able to stimulate demand for additional devices, but unfortunately it hasn't been enough, yet, to sustain positive growth trends."

The top five segments -- smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops, and flat-panel TVs -- won 53 percent of all consumer technology sales last year, up from 49 percent the prior year. But results varied greatly among the five.

NPD Group

Sales of smartphones and tablets grew last year by 25 percent and 42 percent, respectively. The other three categories all saw their sales decline. Tablet demand continued to eat away at sales for desktop PCs and notebooks. And fewer consumers are buying big-screen TVs, despite lower prices. Still, Baker sees a hint of hope from last quarter's results.

"While sales fell in consumer technology for the second consecutive year, there was an uptick in Q4, which is cause for optimism," Baker said. "After struggles with declining categories, and increasingly saturated markets over the last few years, fourth quarter's results may be the first sign that even as a mature industry consumer technology can grow again, albeit with a very different dynamic than in previous growth spurts."