According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the fourth quarter of 2012 was a strong one for mobile phone sales, with 482.5 million mobile phones sold. This compared to 473.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 or 1.9% year on year growth.

In the smartphone segment, 219.4 million units or 45.5% of all mobile phone shipments. This was the highest percentage ever attained and underlines the inexorable shift in the mobile market towards smartphones. In fact, smartphone sales grew 36.4% compared with 2011.

Over the full year,  mobile phone sales grew 1.2% to over 1.7 billion units, of which 712.6 million were smartphones.

Samsung and Apple dominated the market with shares of 29% and 22% as shown in the chart below.  They were followed by Huawei with almost 5% and then SOny an ZTE.  HTCfell out of the top 5 even as Huawei entered it. Disappointingly for Microsoft, Nokia was nowhere to be seen in the top 5, although hopes are high for a resurgence in 2013.

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, Q4 2012 (Units in Millions)
Vendor 4Q12 Unit Shipments 4Q12 Market Share 4Q11 Unit Shipments 4Q11 Market Share Year-over-Year Change
1. Samsung 63.7 29.00% 36.2 22.50% 76.00%
2. Apple 47.8 21.80% 37 23.00% 29.20%
3. Huawei 10.8 4.90% 5.7 3.50% 89.50%
4. Sony 9.8 4.50% 6.3 3.90% 55.60%
5. ZTE 9.5 4.30% 6.4 4.00% 48.40%
Others 77.8 35.50% 69.2 43.10% 12.40%
Total 219.4 100.00% 160.8 100.00% 36.40%

Samsung’s major weapon was the Galaxy S3 and to a lesser extent, the Galaxy Note 2, but Samsung plans to release phones based on Tizen – their own OS in 2013.

Android of course, was the big winner, with all major vendors, save Apple and Nokia selling Android-based smartphones. The silver lining in the IDC report is that Samsung now sells two Windows Phone 8 phones, namely the Odyssey and Focus. Nokia still leads the charge with the top selling Lumia 920 and HTC has the well-regarded HTC Windows Phone 8X.

However, 2013 will be a pivotal year for Microsoft – a year that decides whether Windows Phone 8 smartphones can make a dent in the highly competitive smartphone market. If they cannot, there will be little hope for a Plan B.

Share your thoughts on the shape of the smartphone market and Microsoft’s prospects below.

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