Apple and Samsung rule the smartphone roost

Smartphone shipments increased 41% year-over-year to 144.6 million as of the quarter ending March 2012.

However, a number of smartphone OEMs are not enjoying the benefits of a rapidly expanding market. Indeed, Samsung and Apple captured 55% of global smartphone shipments in 1Q’2012 and over 90% of the market’s profits. 

So can any industry heavyweight break away to become a strong third in this market? 

According to ABI analyst Michael Morgan, of the top ten smartphone OEMs, only Samsung and Sony experienced sequential growth in shipments over 4Q’2011.

Meanwhile, Nokia witnessed a 40% sequential decline in shipments and may soon be passed by ailing RIM in shipments – despite the BlackBerry maker’s 20% sequential decline in shipments. 

“At this point in the year, Nokia will have to grow its Windows Phone business 5000% in 2012 just to offset its declines in Symbian shipments,” explained Morgan. 

The analyst also recommended smartphone OEMs seek growth in key markets such as China, which continues to show strong shipment growth of over 80%.

Despite the shipment growth opportunities that China offers, smartphone OEMs will have to contend with local vendors ZTE and Huawei whose cost structures are tailored to deliver smartphones and homologated content ecosystems at the lower price points needed to drive growth across the vast country. 

“As Nokia’s market share in China plummets, the competition to fill this power vacuum has the potential to make or break smartphone OEMs currently struggling with profitability and differentiation,” adds ABI analyst Jeff Orr.