Samsung was the fastest growing major smartphone vendor

The smartphone market grew 73% in Q4. Here are the growth rates for vendors which regularly report smartphone sales:

  • HTC: 142%
  • Motorola: 96%
  • Apple: 86%
  • RIM: 40.5% (period ending November)
  • Nokia: 36%

Samsung is not consistent in reporting smartphones and we don’t have year-ago data but the following chart can be used to get a hint.

Samsung had a very good year with 25.2 million smartphones sold. This is compared to 2009 when they probably sold less than 5 million. Their growth has meant they overtook both Motorola and HTC and are likely to overtake RIM this year.

Samsung owes its success mainly to adopting Android. As can be seen in the next chart, Samsung moved rapidly to shift its portfolio from non-smart to smart. This is quite a feat considering the starting point well below that of Nokia.

From 2% of total phones to 15% smartphone volumes in 18 months is astonishing.

Extrapolating for the missing data leads to an estimate of smartphone growth for Samsung of over 500%.

  • kaveman

    Remember Samsung has been working on smartphones for many years – Windows Mobile, Palm, and Symbian, working with SoC and OS vendors. The company has decided to devote its huge marketing and channel resources around Android as the smartphone market has blossomed to a significant volume. Its Galaxy brand to differentiate among numerous Android devices was a smart move as well. I suspect that it will continue to gain market share in 2011 unless Nokia makes a drastic move on its smartphone OS strategy.

    • r00tabega

      Samsung is heavily tied to Apple as well, and is piggybacking on Apple's A4 with their less-optimized Hummingbird processor.

      Samsung's branding (not "Droid") is interesting because Droid is a Verizon brand… It also means that the manufacturer is doing their own marketing spend unlike MOT or HTC, and it shows (availability across multiple carriers with the same brand is good).

      What's interesting is that the Droid campaign wound down about 6 months ago, and given Apple and VZ getting comfy, I don't see it being anywhere near as powerful as before… so that might have helped Samsung in their differentiated branding as well.

  • Nalini Kumar Muppala

    How much of this would be attributed to Samsung's multiple OS strategy? Samsung makes phones on all major licensable OSs including one of its own!

  • MattRichman

    @Nalini Kumar Muppala

    I don't think they have a "multiple OS strategy." They use different mobile OSs on different phones, but not because it's their strategy. I think it's because they're confused and have no idea what do to. IE: See which OS works best.

  • Hamranhansenhansen

    Samsung's volume is up, but their profits are down.

    • Sandeep

      yeah but if samsung volumes were down, profits will be further down. Samsung is a volume player.

      • lb51

        I am not sure about this 'volume player' mentality. Businesses wants profits, but not any ole' profits, they want a return that justify their investments within a certain time frame. Otherwise, why have the excess risk of running a company when risk free returns are available. The time keepers of return (finance dept.) are looking very hard at all metrics and seeing if expected returns are inline. Volume player mentality is not a directive, it's more a causality. At what point does a manager say we are at volume, thus profits will grow? It's more, how do we get more profit from current and expected volume.

      • Sandeep

        survival matters, not everybody can become like Apple. Steve Jobs is a freak, other companies have nobody like him, RIM is getting slowly extinct in North America, Nokia is dying at low end and mid end, WebOS is dead, but if you survive, you live to fight another day

    • Are those the phone division profits that are down or the company as a whole whose profits are down. I was under the impression its the latter.

  • Samsung figures from their earnings call presentation –
    2010 total telecom units 280MM, smartphone 9%, vs. 2009 227MM, smartphone 3%. So smartphone volume grew from 6.8MM to 25.2MM, 270% growth. However Samsung is confusing in it puts tablets in this category as well, I believe the 25.2MM includes the 2MM+ Galaxy Tabs they've sold.

    • asymco

      270% is full year growth. I'm comparing fourth quarter to fourth quarter but we don't have the Q4 2009 smartphone number so I'm guessing. It could well be closer to 300% than to 500% (huge error due to a small base) but either way it would be the fastest growing vendor.

      I have to go with their definition of smartphones. If they include tablets then they're breaking with industry norms but I still have to go with their definition.

  • About 5 million of that 25 million is Bada.

  • SubGenius

    Apple chugs along at 100% smartphones.
    The closest thing Apple makes to a feature phone is the iPod touch. Many iPod touch owners have graduated to an iPhone and will continue to do so for many years.

    • r00tabega

      Not sure how you equate feature phone to an iPod Touch… in fact it's basically a PDA/media device (i.e., smartphone – phone).

      Apple worked on one feature phone back in 2005 – the Motorola ROKR.

      I wonder how much Apple learned from that failed product.

  • CndnRschr


    Something is wrong with the RIM smartphone numbers. RIM didn't start producing smartphones in 2007… I had an 8300 (I think) in 2005. Not exactly as competent as todays smartphones but it did have a browswer. Have you changed the definition?

    • asymco

      Yes, that was an error. The cell had a zero in it when it should have been blank. I've also added some Samsung smartphone numbers that a reader sent me via twitter.

  • famousringo

    Impressive growth, and I'm sure most of it is thanks to the smash success of the Galaxy S and variants.

    But I've been hearing terrible feedback about Samsung's software support. People are saying Samsung phones never get an update because Samsung would rather sell you a newer phone to go with that software. This should be less of an issue with WinPho7, since MS is taking charge of those software updates, but the vast majority of those Samsung phones are Android and I don't think this anti-customer attitude will do Samsung any favours in the long term.

    • CndnRschr

      The rumour was that Samsung required the carriers to pay to the cost of feature-adding system updates (aside from bug fixes). Samsung kinda debunked that but there has yet to be an update to Android 2.3 from Samsung and many Sammy phones don't run 2.2.

  • KenC

    Impressive growth for Samsung, which shows that a large company has the ability to change its spots, quickly. Should give some hope to Microsoft and Nokia.

    I wonder if some of that growth came at the expense of LG, who have totally fumbled the transition to smartphones.

    • Iosweeky

      I think nokias gonna gobble up windows phone 7 hook line and sinker which will save Microsoft some face in the short term (overnight they become a huge % of smartphone sales).

      Question is will it halt the nokia slide or not?

  • Just looking through the figures and one thing struck me. Samsung's total smartphone shipments for the year are still LESS than Nokia's growth in shipments. The game is still early.