By Ingrid Lunden
One more analyst house, Canalys, has released its numbers on global smartphone sales in Q2, and unlike Strategy Analytics and IDC, it has focused on sales by platforms rather than OEMs. In that light, Google's Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) was the clear, all-out winner: in a market that saw 158 million smartphone shipments worldwide, Android accounted for 68% of them, with its 108 million units an increase of 110% over the same period a year ago. And given that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) seems to actually be holding its own quite well in countries like the U.S., the strong performance of Android can be largely attributed to how well it's playing in emerging countries, and in one in particular: the world's largest smartphone market at the moment, China.
China had "phenomenal" growth this year, Canalys says, and that's no understatement. Some 42 million smartphones were shipped in China in Q2, which works out to growth of 199% over last year (and 32% over Q1). By comparison, smartphone sales worldwide grew by only 47%, says Canalys. In other words, China grew at a rate more than four times that of the rest of the world. China, it says, accounted for 27% of the world's smartphone shipments, with number-two U.S. at 16%.
Android and forked versions of Android are leading the charge in China, accounting for 81% of all smartphone shipments. The other big trend is that domestic vendors are closing in on Samsung, the world's biggest Android vendor at the moment. Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) continued to remain in the lead with 17% of all shipments, but Canalys notes that in fact Samsung's volumes were flat and ZTE, Lenovo and Huawei in strong 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions and making up about a third of all smartphone shipments. Those three also grew by a massive amount, respectively 171%, 2,665% and 252% over last year. Altogether, domestic vendors, Canalys says, shipping 25.6 million units, grew 518% over last year and made up 60% of the market. International vendors grew only by 67%, shipping 16.7 million units.
Apple, as the company itself admitted last week, had a more challenging Q2 in China. Yes, it was the fifth-largest handset player, with shipments up by 102% over last year, but they were down 37% compared to Q1.
Canalys puts the power of domestic vendors down to their "deep understanding of local consumer behavior." Nicole Peng, research director for China, notes that bigger players like ZTE, Lenovo and Huawei are all raising brand awareness and building stronger relationships with operators, but the smaller players are also not to be dismissed. "Tier-two vendors - the likes of Oppo, K-Touch and Gionee - have also stamped their mark, boosting smart phone shipments into tier-three and tier-four cities, predominantly through the open channels," she writes. "As feature phone vendors, they already have established partnerships and strong brand awareness. These domestic vendors are making significant progress transitioning their portfolios and customer bases to be more focused on smart phones."
The drive away from international brands is affecting others, too, although these are vendors that have seen declines worldwide as well, so the trend may be larger than China itself. Canalys notes that Nokia's volumes in China were down by 47% in Q2, and Motorola also saw a decline. The only one that really did well was the Taiwanese HTC, which has been pushing models designed to be integrated tightly with local Chinese services (and price points). HTC's shipments gew 389% to 1.8 million units.
Globally, Samsung continued to be the main driver of Android's strength. Canalys estimates that Samsung shipped "over 45 million handsets" - not too far off Strategy Analytics' estimate of 50.5 million. (Samsung, unhelpfully, doesn't provide these numbers itself.) Whichever number you choose to believe, it puts Samsung at the top of the pile, and for the same reasons: a strong product portfolio covering different price points, and a savvy marketing strategy, including a key Olympics sponsorship. Canalys says that Samsung worldwide currently has a 31% share of the global smartphone market (SA by comparison put it at 34.6%; IDC at 33.6%).
Apple and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) followed as the second and third-largest smartphone makers, with HTC taking fourth and RIM barely scraping in at 8.5 million units in Q2.