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Apple smartphone growth puts competition in the shade

Smartphone market share

Canalys has released its smartphone market share figures for Q1 2010, and the big winners are undoubtedly Apple, HTC and Motorola, all of which posted treble-digit growth in unit shipments compared to the equivalent quarter of 2009.

Smartphone market share

To put that into a little context: Apple’s worldwide market share increased by 4.4%. This increase is almost the same as Motorola’s entire share of the market, even after the excellent growth it showed over the quarter.

Before anyone starts to write off the likes of RIM or Nokia, though, it’s worth remembering that all of the big companies will be happy at the levels of unit shipment growth they’ve got. RIM, which performed “worst” of the big smartphone makers, still enjoyed 45.1% growth in unit shipments.

This is a market which is expanding at a phenomenal rate, which means even those companies losing market share are going to be increasing sales and making more money. Remember that Nokia, which looks like it’s the “loser” at first glance, still shipped over seven million more smartphones than the equivalent quarter in 2009. That’s almost as many phones as Apple sold in total in Q1 2010.

So what has driven Apple’s success? Canalys thinks it’s largely the end of operator exclusives in countries like the UK, which has meant the company could exploit pent-up demand amongst customers on other networks. This will probably add fuel to the fire of speculation that it will expand its operators in the US, most especially to Verizon.

However, my own feeling is that it’s unlikely to create a CDMA phone, ever. Apple has shown little inclination to customize it’s hardware or software to any specific network, with the exception of creating a wifi-less iPhone for China. It clearly prefers to choose a single global standard, which reduces its costs for both manufacturing, software and support.

One final point to note: Palm, which many have written off entirely, managed a more than credible 129% growth in shipments over the year. Who says that billion dollars of HP‘s money was too much?

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