We are now on third year of our visit to the exciting forecasts of Tomi Ahonen, this time it’s year 2012 he forecasts. Here you go Tomi:

What kind of numbers will we reach this year? I am modeling (again, conservatively at the start of the year, this may be and likely will be revised during the year) that the overall growth rate will slow down. The growth rate was 73% in 2010, and 63% in 2011. I am thus pegging my first target saying smartphone growth this year will be 53% and we’ll reach 745 million smartphones sold this year.

[1]

Actually it turns out to be 698 million devices sold. [2] Even more conservative growth (of 43.6%) so Tomi is off by about ten points of percentage. Let’s see how he does the manufacturers this year, shall we?

MISS:

No matter what Apple does, the next iPhone will be cool and desirable and people will once again wait in line to be the first to get it. Some things to look for with Apple. Is the next iPhone released in June or September. The sooner the better for Apple’s world domination plans. And will there be a split in the product line. I have been advocating on this blog that Apple needs to introduce a low-cost ‘entry level’ model, what I call the iPhone Nano. I have said that releasing the Nano variant (and splitting the product line) would increase Apple’s total unit sales by at least 50% and if done intelligently, a Nano variant would not eat into existing iPhone customer sales, but would open massive markets in the lower-cost countries where most phones are not subsidised and a 660 dollar price tag puts the iPhone 4S as much beyond the reach of the common consumer as a Rolls Royce or a corporate jet or a luxury yacht. But even in those markets, the newly affluent middle class could afford a 300 dollar (unsubsidised) Nano iPhone.

edit note: This chapter was changed to be more specific: there is iPhone 5C&5S today but it is not what Tomi has been asking for. end of edit note
Ummm… Where’s the forecast? Market shares? I guess we get back to this in operating systems and iOS but for Tomi’s eager anticipation of a product line split the way he demands it – to half-price lower-specced “my first iPhone” – not happened. It did not happen in 2012, it did not happen in 2013 and it will not happen in 2014 either.

HIT:

Samsung is certain to pass Apple for the global crown this year. I think Quarter-by-Quarter we may see a see-saw effect with these two brands battling for the quarterly lead, but for the year, Sammy is pretty set to become the top dog. And for the full year, they are likely to reach their decade-long ambition – to pass Nokia as the world’s largest handset maker too. That might not happen for the full year sales, but is very likely to happen in Quarterly handset sales around Q4 or even Q3.

This he got right. Samsung sold 215 million smartphones in 2012 when Apple sold 136 million.

MISS:

If I was to predict a direction, I think Samsung felt stung by Nokia’s 808 PureView taking the crown for the Phone of the Event at the world’s biggest mobile industry event, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a few weeks ago. Samsung has been an early pioneer in cameraphones and has done many high resolution cameras in the past. We might see Sammy do a top-line cameraphone but obviously running Android, and branded Galaxy.

Samsung Galaxy Zoom was not launched 2012, it came out in 2013. This was a miss. (No, Samsung Galaxy Camera is not a phone.)

(Tomi is getting to Nokia, cutting off some Elop rant at this point…)

MISS:

But yes, we await Meltemi to launch its first low-cost smartphones. That might happen still this year. Elop has been good at pushing far more aggressive delivery times at Nokia.

Meltemi never produced anything outside Nokia.

HIT:

I think Nokia will certainly bleed market share and depending on how hard Elop pushes away from Symbian and MeeGo based smartphones to Lumia series, Nokia may see actual unit sales declines even, continuing this year.

Both unit sales and market share declined so we have a hit.

MISS:

For 2012 I think its pretty clear we see Nokia plunging into single-digit market share territory. A good year would have Nokia ending the year with 8% in Q4, a bad year would see Nokia with Lumia, and what maybe remains of Symbian and MeeGo devices, as low as 6% market share.

Nokia ended year 2012 with 3% market share, Tomi is off by whopping 100%.

MISS:

The good news at RIM is the return to growth. The bad news is that RIM is almost immune from being able to grow at the rate of the industry.

Blackberry now is seeing ‘anemic’ growth when compared to rivals like Apple and Samsung.

No, RIM did not return to growth but instead declined in both unit sales and market share, from 11% [3] to 5%. [2]

NO-OP:

The near term future for HTC is uncertain, can it recover or is there something systematically wrong with the company. 2012 will tell.

Tomi does not give any forecast at all on HTC. It seems to be first manufacturer that Tomi admits he has no clue of.

MISS:

That was the big 5 smartphone makers who together control 70% of the world’s smartphone market and where each had a market share in 2011 of between 19% (Apple) and 9% (HTC). The rest of the rivals are not really contenders, they are the pretenders, the largest of which had only about 5% market share sizes (Sony and LG) and down from there. But lets take a few to consider of the pretenders class

Those pretenders Tomi lists are Sony, LG, Huawei, Motorola. He wraps it up by saying:

I would say Sony is the strongest of the pretenders if it gets its act together, that could climb into the contenders class in a year or two.

In full year numbers Sony passes HTC and takes 6th position, beaten by “pretender” called Huawei, which on its behalf takes 3rd place in Q4 2012 (something Tomi did not see coming).

MISS:

Then we have the truly little fish, whose market share is 2% or less in smartphones. I will only discuss this briefly as a group. This includes former big smartphone brands like Panasonic, Sharp, Fujitsu and Kyocera; includes big dumbphone makers who also make some smartphones like ZTE, Mi-Fone, Micromax; includes PC makers like Lenovo, Acer and Dell; and the obscure other maker like Pantech the 3rd mobile phone handset maker of South Korea (behind far better known Samsung and LG), or such smaller brands as INQ of the Hutchison group better known in mobile telecoms for the 3G brand Three in many European and Asian markets. Someone from this group can climb into the contenders during the year.

Full year 2012:

  • Huawei 5th
  • ZTE 8th
  • Lenovo 10th.

fourth quarter of 2012:

  • Huawei 3rd (after Samsung and Apple) with 5.5%
  • ZTE 4th with 5.3%
  • Lenovo 5th with 4.3%

Two from this group of little fish entered the top 5 and at same time removed two of those “big 5 smartphone makers who together control 70% of the world’s smartphone market“. And three from the contenders and pretenders ended up having market share over twice what they were supposed to have. Once again Tomi obviously did not see that one coming.

OPERATING SYSTEMS

That much for manufacturers, time to enter operating systems. This year Tomi gets better with operating systems and reaches 50% accuracy!

MISS:

I think we are seeing this year a settling of the ‘natural’ state of Android into the 50% to 60% range where it is likely to be relatively stable for some years go come.

Full year for Android is 65% market share and year ends at 69% market share. And that is not relatively stable for years to come as Android hits 80% the next year.

HIT:

I have said for several years, that the iPhone cannot grow its market share in meaningful ways anymore. I have been proven wrong, but I say it again. If Apple only release one new superphone priced iPhone this year, they have a natural limit of what they can do with such an expensive device. If they grow, it will be in very slight increments, a percent or two. Far more likely – remember the Deloitte projection of four out of ten smartphones sold this year will cost under 100 dollars (unsubsidised price) – the 660 dollar iPhone (unsubsidised price) will hit a market share ceiling due to being overpriced.

Apple gets full year market share of 20%. That’s one point of percentage up so it’s what Tomi said.

HIT:

But in any case, we should see Symbian’s current 11% market share dwindling down to about 2% or so by the Christmas quarter

Symbian fell to 1% by Christmas quarter. In numbers this small I call it close enough.

(At this point Tomi gives history of BB OS, Windows Mobile and Bada, but no forecast of any of them. I have no clue why, probably because he has failed in those already in the past.)

MISS:

Windows Phone on Nokia brand could get something like 4% of the global smartphone market this year – about 30 million smartphone handsets – and if we add another 2% by the other handset makers – which would still be more than doubling their current sales – and say Windows Phone has a total 2012 annual market share across all Windows Phone family smartphone manufacturers of 6%, that is about 45 million devices for the year.

In reality Windows Phone sold 16 million devices which granted it 2% market share. Tomi’s forecast? Off by 200%.

(And at this point Tomi gets to MeeGo, I’m cutting off some Elop rant…)

HIT:

So like I said, I expect MeeGo to be killed and buried this year.

O RLY!?! After Nokia announced it will discontinued a full year ago? Surprised, anyone?

An interesting bit of info here: I judge Tomi based on his own “full year 2012 numbers”. [2] Do you know what is odd in those? He told us in 2012 Q1 and Q2 that N9 sold 3.4 million cumulative units during those quarters (and presumably enough to reach full 4 million during second half of the year). When we get to his full year statistics MeeGo is not on the list where an OS would get ranked with 2 million sales! (How odd…)

MISS:

(on Tizen) The keys are when do we see first handsets, will there be serious commitment from the other handset makers, not just Samsung, and how will Sammy itself migrate and grow the bada evolution to Tizen. But this may well end up being the masterstroke by Samsung, snatching MeeGo/Intel partnership from Nokia and turning it into the legitimate 3rd ecosystem while Windows Phone lingers in 6th or 7th place.

…or then the entire OS may be pushed to year 2014. Who could have guessed?

That was Tomi’s forecast for 2012. Far more careful than his 2011 forecast but still surprising from someone who was supposed to be most accurate forecaster in mobile. Perhaps there just are not that many accurate forecasters in mobile?

Don’t worry, there is still lots of fun left for tomorrow when I go through Tomi’s forecast of year 2013. We know enough by now to call his hits and misses. Stay tuned.

REFERENCES:

[1] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/03/previewing-year-2012-in-smartphone-bloodbath-year-3-is-the-digital-jamboree.html

[2] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/02/smartphone-final-numbers-2011-all-the-stats-including-q4-by-handset-brands-operating-systems-and-ins.html

[3] http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2013/02/final-q4-numbers-and-full-year-2012-stats-for-smartphone-market-shares-top-10-manufacturers-top-os-p.html

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