Business, Hardware

Smartphone News: Q4 Results, Lenovo Grows, Vertu Goes Android, ZTE

We are getting more results coming in from the smartphone bloodbath. LG reports 8.6 million smartphones sold in Q4, up 23% from Q3, gives LG a market share of about 4% and now that the business is back away from loss-generating Windows smartphones to Android, the LG smartphone business is safely profitable once again. Welcome back.

Lenovo, maker of the LePhone, reports strong growth in its smartphone unit, with 9.4 million smartphones sold in Q4, up 34% from Q3, giving Lenovo about 4% market share. Lenovo says 9 million were sold inside China and so far, only 400,000 sold outside of China, as Lenovo has started to sell in Russia, India, and Indonesia etc. Expect the Lenovo LePhone to gain traction soon and likely propel the PC maker to significant gains also outside of China in the spring of 2013.

Vertu, the luxury brand was sold by Nokia and as soon as it got rid of Nokia ownership, it switches operating systems. Away from Symbian obviously but is Vertu going Windows Phone? Not a chance. They are going Android.

ZTE says it will be bringing out a smartphone running Firefox OS.

RIM changed its corporate name to Blackberry. It introduced two new smartphones to launch the Blackberry 10 operating system, one that looks like the generic i-Phone-a-Clone pure touch screen device, with a virtual keyboard, and another more classic Blackberry style with physical QWERTY in the typical Blackberry form factor. Nothing dramatic in the launch, these look like very competent ‘me too’ devices on a ‘me too’ touch-screen OS having most but not all required apps in the store, including Angry Birds. Can this revive Blackberry, probably not, but does it stop the rot, probably yes. Expect Blackberry to somewhat stabilize as long as we don’t find major disasters in the next few months, like service outages or some hardware bugs. In meanwhile, watch their Superbowl ad:

And then on the tiny Finnish handset-maker startup called Jolla and their ex-Nokia MeeGo derivative OS, called Sailfish. Sailfish yes, is like ‘MeeGo 2.0’ and obviously is Linux based open source and thus a cousin of Android among other good things. Jolla is facing a huge task to achieve volumes to become meaningful, and their first big hurdle was passed when they secured a China retail chain reseller contract last year. They also announced their first carrier deal last year, but it was in the small domestic market of Finland where no doubt Jolla will sell if for no other reason, than for patriotic and Nokia-nostalgic customers. Here comes the second big news from the new boys from Finland. Jolla has found a handset maker partner for Sailfish OS, a Chinese third-tier smartphone manufacturer called Zopo Mobile, who are targeting… India. So now Jolla’s Sailfish is going to be available in both of the two largest handset markets of the world.

The Smartphone Wars: Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2012 Market Share Coming
For the final numbers, we have to wait for the last two analyst houses (Gartner and Canalys) to give their final fourth quarter and total 2012 smartphone sales numbers, to be able to give us the final count and market shares. The two manufacturers that still can impact the Top 10 are Sony and Yulong i.e. Coolpad.

Sony is likely to sell something in the order of 10.5 million smartphones in Q4. That would put it safely in 5th place ranking in the Top 10, behind Samsung, Apple, Huawei and ZTE. But Lenovo did 9.4 million, if Sony were to fall under 9.4 million (Sony did 8.8 million in Q3) then Lenovo would take 5th ranking dropping Sony to 6th.

Then we are set for 7th, 8th and 9th – LG, ZTE and RIM respectively – but 10th ranking is still open. It is tentatively held by Nokia, with 6.6 million total smartphone sales in Q4, but in Q3 Yulong/Coolpad of China sold 5.1 million smartphones. The Chinese brands have all had a banner Christmas quarter and Yulong/Coolpad had been very popular in Q3, by some measures the second bestselling domestic brand in the China market. The global smartphone market grew approximately 29% from Q3 to Q4. If I assign that percentage of growth to Yulong/Coolpad from Q3 to Q4, they would sell – exactly – 6.6 million units, and have a tie with Nokia. Let’s hope we don’t get a tie, and we get a clear decision one way or the other. I hope to know, it may be that Yulong/Coolpad does not announce its smartphone number and we are stuck with depending on the analysts and other such data? But yes, the 10th position in the Top 10 is still open, either going to Nokia or Yulong/Coolpad.

Top 10 for Q4 Smartphone Global Sales, Est. Feb 4, 2013

  1. Samsung Mobile – 63.7 million (preliminary)
  2. Apple – 47.8 million
  3. Huawei – (approx 20 million)
  4. ZTE – 12.5 million
  5. either Sony or Lenovo – (Sony likely sold about 10.5 million)
  6. ether Lenovo or Sony – Lenovo sold 9.8 million
  7. LG – 8.6 million
  8. HTC – 7.0 million
  9. RIM – 6.9 million
  10. either Nokia or Yulong/Coolpad – Nokia sold 6.6 million

This data preliminary, full analysis coming as soon as the final data is reported

The overall market size seems to be pretty near 220 million smartphones sold in Q4 and a little over 700 million for the full year 2012. Again, we need to wait for Gartner and Canalys to weigh in before we’ll have the final number.
I will of course do the full count and give also installed base updates, the annual sales, and the sales and rankings of the operating systems as well, as usual.