By Natasha Lomas
Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) will increase its lead over Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the smartphone space this year, according to analyst Strategy Analytics. Speaking to Reuters, the analyst said it expects the Korean electronics giant to achieve 35 percent year-on-year growth in smartphones in 2013, fueled by its broad portfolio of handsets. This is slightly higher than the 33 percent growth it's projecting for Apple.
"We expect Samsung to slightly extend its lead over Apple this year because of its larger multitier product portfolio," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, told Reuters in an email.
Strategy Analytics expects Samsung to sell 290 million smartphones this year, up from a projected 215 million in 2012, to give Samsung a third (33 per cent) of the 2013 smartphone market, up from last year's estimated 31 per cent. Meanwhile, Apple's smartphone sales are projected to total 180 million this year, up a third on last year's sales - giving Apple just over a fifth (21 percent) of the market, versus last year's 20 percent.
There is one factor that could mitigate Samsung's lead over Apple, according to the analyst, and that's if Apple releases a so-called "iPhone mini" to compete with Samsung's portfolio lower down the device price range. A cheaper iPhone has been rumored for years but the fabled iPhone Mini remains fictional for now - although Reuters notes the rumor of Apple making a smaller and cheaper iPhone to target China and India was most recently revived again on Wednesday, by a Topeka Capital Markets researcher.
Strategy Analytics' Mawston said it believes Apple will need to launch an iPhone Mini in the near future but probably won't launch one this year. "We think Apple will have to launch an 'iPhone Mini' at some point over the next three years to address the hundreds of millions of prepaid users worldwide that cannot afford the current iPhone," he told Reuters.
"The iPhone 5 is growing fast and profitably right now, so there is little incentive for Apple to launch an 'iPhone Mini' this year. We expect the iPhone Mini to be more likely next year, in 2014 when … Apple will be forced to discover fresh growth streams."
The analyst is projecting global smartphone market growth will slow in 2013 from its very rapid rate of expansion last year, with shipments projected to rise 27 percent to 875 million this year, slowing from last year's 41 percent growth. Strategy Analytics said this is due to growth easing in "many key markets" such as North America, China, the developed economies of Asia, and Western Europe.