Smartphone shipments outstrip PC shipments in Q4

100.9 million smartphones shipped in Q4 2010, 92.1 million PCs shipped in same period

Tags: International Data CorporationPC ShipmentsSmartphone
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Smartphone shipments outstrip PC shipments in Q4 PC shipments are experiencing soft growth year-on-year, while smartphone shipments are booming. (ITP Images)
By  Georgina Enzer Published  February 9, 2011

While the global smartphone market is booming, ending the quarter with record shipping volumes, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the global PC market is not so lucky, recording softening volumes in Q4 2010.

IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, showed that vendors shipped a total of 100.9 million smartphones during the fourth quarter of 2010 (4Q10), up 87.2% from the 53.9 million smartphones shipped during 4Q09.

Due to a slow consumer market and media tablets surging onto the market, the global PC market saw only a modest Q4 2010 growth in shipments, at 5.5%, but shipments of 92.1 million for the quarter still were the largest ever. Total shipments for 2010 reached 346.2 million, an increase of 13.6%, fuelled by a strong recovery in the first half of the year.

PC shipments increased 2.7% year on year during 4Q10, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, while for the full year, vendors shipped a total of 302.6 million smartphones worldwide, up 74.4% from the 173.5 million smartphones shipped in 2009.

"Android continues to gain by leaps and bounds, helping to drive the smartphone market," said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC's Mobile Phone Technology and Trends team. "It has become the cornerstone of multiple vendors' smartphone strategies, and has quickly become a challenger to market leader Symbian. Although Symbian has the backing of market leader Nokia, Android has multiple vendors, including HTC, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung and a growing list of companies deploying Android on their devices."

For PCs, the softening demand in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) added to the slow market, with shipment growth falling into single-digits following a recent peak of more than 30% a year ago. Other regions were generally in line with expectations. The United States market declined 4.8% year on year, while other regions continued to experience market expansion, albeit at a slower pace than in recent quarters.

"The US market was expected to shrink year over year given the exploding growth experienced in the fourth quarter of 2009. Growth steadily slowed throughout 2010 as weakening demand and competition from the Apple iPad constrained PC shipments. In addition to relatively high market penetration and a 'good-enough' computing experience with existing PCs, consumers are being more cautious with their purchases and competing devices have been vying for consumer dollars. This situation is likely to persist in 2011, if not worsen, as a wave of Media Tablets could put a dent in the traditional PC market," said David Daoud, research director, US Quarterly PC Tracker and Personal Computing.

The IDC is expecting further growth in the smartphone market in 2011, as smartphone vendors deepen and broaden their offerings.

"The high-end of the market has been important to help grow the smartphone market in recent years," noted Llamas. "IDC expects vendors to provide more mid-range and low-end smartphones at lower prices to reach the mass market. In the same manner, even high-end devices will become available at lower prices. This will result in greater competition and more selection for users."

While smartphone analysts are optimistic, those in the PC shipment business are predicting further soft growth in 2011 due to the influx of new tablet devices. In Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) in particular Christmas sales of PCs were constrained by the stellar uptake of media tablets, diverting consumers' budget away from computing.

"Consumer fatigue is playing an important role in many markets as the Mini Notebook surge wanes and consumers watch their spending and evaluate other products," said Jay Chou, research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "Softening demand in Asia/Pacific and the potential for similar changes in other regions represent the biggest potential shift in PC growth during 2011. These factors are likely to slightly reduce growth from previous projections of about 10% for 2011, although replacements in the commercial segment and aggressive competition should still support double-digit growth in the second half of the year."

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