Smartphone shipments surged last year, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. In 2012, smartphone shipments totaled 545.2 million units, a 10.1 percent gain over the previous year's figures.
The holidays made for a particularly robust fourth quarter. Smartphone makers shipped 219.4 million units in 4Q12, a 36.4 percent year-over-year gain. The smartphone category made up 45.5 percent of all mobile phone shipments in the fourth quarter, an IDC record said.
Samsung and Apple topped the rankings with 63.7 million and 47.8 million smartphones, respectively, shipped during the fourth quarter. Collectively, they commanded 50.8 percent of the market (Samsung: 29.0 percent, Apple: 21.8 percent).
While these heavyweights rule the smartphone sales charts, IDC senior research analyst Kevin Restivo noted that there's ample opportunity for lesser-known mobile handset makers.
"Vendors with unique market advantages, such as lower-cost devices, can rapidly gain market share, especially in emerging markets. A good example is Huawei, which overtook LG as a Top 5 vendor in the overall mobile phone market and passed HTC to become a Top 5 smartphone vendor," said Restivo in a statement.
"Huawei suddenly finds itself among the top three smartphone vendors in the world, a first for the company," said IDC. The research firm attributed the company's upward momentum to software innovations and a product portfolio that includes simple to use and inexpensive models as well as last year's thinnest smartphone, which measured just 6.68 millimeters deep.
Rounding out the top five smartphone vendors last quarter were Sony and ZTE. For all of 2012, Samsung and Apple remain at the top with 39.6 percent and 25.1 percent market share, respectively. Nokia and HTC follow, each with roughly six percent of the market.
Finally, embattled BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) managed to ship 32.5 million smartphones last year, enough to capture six percent of the market and rank among the top five despite a 36.4 percent drop in shipments compared to 2011.
RIM is banking on a refreshed product slate to help it climb back up the charts. Ahead of the scheduled to launch of new BlackBerry 10 devices on January 30th, RIM is working hard to court both developers and enterprise IT managers. Earlier this week, the company released its mobile management software suite, BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, which extends mobile device management (MDM) functionality to devices running rival mobile operating systems, namely iOS and Android.