According to market analysts IDC, European smartphone shipments have fallen 4.2 percent in Q1
-- the first drop in nine years. The weakness in the marketplace is affecting all manufacturers, but Apple was particularly hard-hit, losing five percent of its share -- mostly to Sony and Samsung, both of whom saw shipments rise by comparison. It is worth noting that shipments do not directly equal sales, but fewer shipments do indicate a drop in demand -- which for Apple is to be expected with the iPhone 5S expected to arrive
later this summer.
While Apple is actually gaining share in North America
and some other markets over Android and other rivals with its nine-month-old iPhone 5 as well as the surprisingly strong sales
of the 4S and 4, in a number of key global markets -- Europe, Japan and China -- the iPhone is far behind the combined weight of Google's Android OS. In part this is due to the wider range of handsets available under the Android banner -- everything from low-end feature phones to premium smartphones, meaning more models suitable for budget-conscious markets -- but also in part due to the endless stream of new models, exaggerated shipment reports
and a perception that companies such as Nokia and BlackBerry are not as written-off as they are apparently are in the American market.
Smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2013 were down to 43.6 million units, while feature phone shipments were down a staggering 31 percent to 12 million units in Europe as the continent moves away from basic cell phones, Mobile News
reports. Overall, smartphone shipments saw a 12 percent year-over-year growth to 31.6 million units as a result of that transition, but it was the smallest growth rate for smartphones IDC has recorded, and a big drop for handsets overall.
Samsung is estimated to have increased its share percentage of smartphone shipments by six percent to 45 percent (14.3 million units), while Apple fell from 25 percent of the market to 20 percent in shipments, with 6.2 million units. Sony managed to double its shipments to 3.2 million units, rising to third place and claiming 10 percent of the shipment marketshare. LG quadrupled its shipments to 2.4 million units, enough for fourth place and eight percent of the market. Nokia fell from third to fifth place in Q1 by halving its shipments to 1.6 million units, enough for five percent of the market.
The European director of IDC believes that the market is now dominated by "second wave" buyers, who prefer basic phones and don't yet see the value in services such as 3G/LTE or apps, but are increasingly being pushed by peers and carriers to smartphones as feature phones fade from the marketplace -- a bit like that relative everyone has who refuses to get a Blu-ray player and HDTV when their conventional DVD player and tube TV continue to work. If he is correct, it bodes well for Samsung, which focuses on the low end of the market in Europe, and perhaps -- if Apple releases a "lower cost" iPhone model as has been rumored for later this year -- for Apple as well.