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Smartphones were crazy popular in 2012, 700+ million sold with Samsung in the lead

Just in case you hadn’t realized, smartphones are quite popular at the moment, and to illustrate the fact, Strategy Analytics has informed us that a total of 700 million handsets were shipped by manufacturers during 2012. This astounding figure smashes 2011’s total of nearly 490 million, and is almost double the expected amount of laptop computer shipments.

So, that’s a lot of smartphones. The figure reveals even more about the mobile industry when it becomes apparent which companies have sold the majority of those phones. Unsurprisingly, it’s Samsung topping the chart with 213 million, followed by Apple in second place with 135 million. Two companies then, are responsible for near-as-makes-no-difference 50 percent of all the phones sold around the world last year.

Strategy Analytics has Nokia behind Samsung and Apple with 35 million, then lumps everyone else into a category named, “Others,” which accounts for the remaining 316 million. Its results give Samsung a 30 percent share of the global mobile market, Apple gets 19 percent and Nokia gets 5 percent. The others are then left to secretly fight over what’s left: 45 percent.

IDC’s numbers show HTC and RIM are still kickin

However, this is only one firm’s estimate, and over at IDC, it’s a slightly different picture. Its chart also has almost the same figures for Samsung, Apple and Nokia – 215 million, 136 million and 35 million respectively – it then puts HTC in fourth position with 32.6 million, and Research in Motion in fifth with 32.5 million smartphones shipped. It’s “Others” category gets 92 million, which brings the grand total to 545 million smartphones shipped in 2012 – a very different number to Strategy Analytics.

A check of their respective 2011 total shows they’re in broad agreement – IDC saying 495 million and Strategy Analytics saying 490 million – two numbers which are close enough together, relatively at least, to not raise any eyebrows. But when there is a difference of 155 million, we’d quite like to know what one is counting and the other is not. The answer clearly lies somewhere in the Others category, as if the pair also agree on HTC and RIM’s performance, it leaves Strategy Analytics accounting for 252 million sales which IDC isn’t.

So what’s the secret hidden inside? We contacted both Strategy Analytics and IDC for comment, and it was the former that responded first. Neil Mawston, the firm’s Executive Director, said, “Our numbers are locked in at 700 million and we’re comfortable at that level.” He questioned whether IDC’s figure was a typo, as in their research, the half-a-billion sales was hit in before September.

We’re still waiting for a response from IDC, and will update here when they get in touch.

Update 01/25/13 at 12:15:

IDC has got in touch and cleared up the mystery. The original press release apparently contained, “a number of mistakes… and we’re in the process of correcting and replacing the version we put out last night.” We’ve seen IDC’s corrected figures, and it’s all the fault of the mysterious Others, as earlier they were responsible for 92 million shipped phones, but now they’ve significantly upped their game to 260 million. This has brought IDC’s grand total to 712 million, a few million more than Strategy Analytics figure.

Everyone’s agreed then, in 2012 Samsung, Apple and the Others all shipped a lot of smartphones.

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