Apple Passes LG to Become World's Third Largest Mobile Phone Manufacturer
Research firm IDC today released its estimates of global mobile phone sales for the fourth quarter of and full-year 2011, finding Apple moving past LG to claim third place in the rankings for the first time. Apple was rapidly closing on LG by mid-2010, but fell back into fifth place behind ZTE during the third quarter as customers held off in anticipation of new iPhone hardware. The strong surge from the iPhone 4S launch was then enough for Apple to move up in the year's final quarter and by a large enough margin that it was able pass LG in full-year numbers as well.
Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales in 4Q11 in Millions of Units (Source: IDC)
While Apple has been estimated to be neck-and-neck with Samsung for the crown of top smartphone manufacturer, Nokia and Samsung firmly hold down the top two spots in the overall mobile phone rankings on the volume of their lower-end feature phones.
Apple jumped into the third spot globally from the fifth spot last quarter thanks to a record-breaking quarter of shipments. That represents the Cupertino-based company's highest-ever ranking on IDC's Top 5 global mobile phone leaderboard. The launch of Apple's iPhone 4S smartphone, which is now available in over 90 countries (as of mid-January), was the primary reason the company leapt over LG and ZTE in 4Q11. Device sales in the U.S. and Japan were particularly strong given extra sales days in the quarter and carrier distribution.
Apple's share of the market hit 8.7% in the fourth quarter and registered at 6.0% for the full year. Steve Jobs famously noted during the iPhone's 2007 introduction that Apple was shooting to take 1% of the massive overall mobile phone market, and the company has clearly exceeded that goal and can now set its sights on a 10% quarterly share during the next spike in sales.
Worldwide Mobile Phone Sales in 2011 in Millions of Units (Source: IDC)
One year ago, Apple ranked fifth in both fourth quarter and full-year sales for 2010, but by nearly doubling its sales year-over-year Apple was able to overtake both ZTE and LG to move into third place.