The worldwide mobile phone market grew 6.1% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2011 (4Q11), as the feature phone market declined faster than anticipated, dragging market growth down to its lowest point in over two years. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped 427.4 million units in 4Q11 compared to 402.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2010. The 6.1% year-over-year growth was higher than IDC's forecast of 4.4% for the quarter, but weaker than the 9.3% growth in 3Q11.
"The mobile phone market exhibited unusually low growth last quarter, which shows it is not immune to weaker macroeconomic conditions worldwide," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. "The introduction of high-growth products such as the iPhone 4S, which shipped in the fourth quarter, bolstered smartphone growth. Yet overall market growth fell to its lowest point since 3Q09 when the global economic recession was in full bloom."
While smartphones continue to grow in popularity, feature phones still comprise the majority of all mobile phone shipments. "Feature phones accounted for a majority of shipments from four of the five market leaders during the quarter," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. "Even though their proportion is eroding, feature phones maintain their appeal on the basis of price and ease of use.
"At the same time, feature phones are fighting to maintain their market share," adds Llamas. "To meet the challenge, feature phones are becoming more like smartphones, incorporating mobile Internet and third-party applications. While this may not stem the smartphone tide, it should slow down the rate at which smartphones are selected over feature phones."
- In Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan), the feature phone market declined in conjunction with the region's largest feature phone markets – China, India, and Indonesia. The impact on phone demand due to the holiday season, which generally means a sales uplift, was minimal in this category. Meanwhile, smartphones maintained their growth momentum as the iPhone 4S was well received in Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan. Competition in the Android market intensified as mid-range vendors, such as Lenovo, Coolpad, and Huawei, shipped large numbers in their home market of China. Elsewhere, the rest of the Android market was dominated by Samsung, followed by HTC and LG. Windows Phone gained some momentum thanks to sales of the HTC Titan and Radar and Nokia Lumia. In Japan, pent-up demand for mobile phones after last year's natural disasters and weakened economy meant unusually high growth for the country's mobile phone market. Smartphone sellers, such as Apple, fared particularly well while non-Japanese vendors continue to make incremental gains in the market.