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Apple Passes RIM in Global Smartphone Share

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Despite Steve Job’s obvious distaste for the company, Research in Motion (RIM) (s rimm) has long remained ahead of Apple (s aapl) in the global smartphone market. Not any longer, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, which reported yesterday that the iPhone shipped more units than did BlackBerry during 2010’s third quarter.

However, it wasn’t really a terrible loss for RIM, as the entire smartphone market grew 78 percent overall. Though Apple did surpass RIM in sales volume (and seems poised to ship even more in the future, since supply constraints provided a choke point in 2010), it still has a long way to go before it approaches Nokia (s nok), the reigning king of the smartphone hill.

Nokia shipped 26.5 million devices during the three-month period. Apple, by contrast, shipped only 14.5 million, almost half as much as its biggest rival. Nokia benefits from a much greater presence in Asia and Europe, and will be hard to shake from its lofty perch, though it’s losing ground. It held 34.4 percent of the market in this latest scan, down from 37.8 percent from the same period the previous year.

Apple’s market share grew from 17.0 to 18.3 percent over the year. The BlackBerry’s take dropped as much as Nokia’s, falling from 19.6 to 16.1 percent; RIM shipped 12.3 million devices during the quarter. The Canadian company is missing out in large part due to “a limited presence in the high-growth touchscreen segment” according to Strategy Analytics.

According to analysts from Canacord Genuity, a firm 0perating in RIM’s own backyard, Apple’s lead in the smartphone market may be insurmountable at this point, even for Google (s goog).

Following Monday’s conference call, the firm raised its target price on Apple stock to $421 and called Apple “unbeatable.” Analyst Micheal Walkley said simply, “We agree with his views,” referring to Jobs’ claim that “we’ve now passed RIM and I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future.” Analysts also agreed that Android was too fragmented, and argued that the App Store’s head start in terms of its software library is a market-defining advantage.

Unbeatable is a strong word to use in a sector as prone to transformative change as mobile tech, but Apple is currently occupying a position in the market that almost no one would’ve predicted five years ago, so perhaps in this case, it’s merited.

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35 Responses to “Apple Passes RIM in Global Smartphone Share”

  1. longandshort

    Close to call it now though RIM is falling behind. They look more like chasing Apple to catch up on products and innovation. Also do not seem to be as hungry as Apple. I guess thats the difference between Canadian and American tech. Android could look to overtaking RIM although a long shot. It has not been that successful. Microsoft no chance. They are too late.

  2. Ames Tiedeman

    A friend of mine just got back from China. He bought a knock-off iPhone 4 for $20 bucks. The Chinese are knocking off the iPhone 4. My friend won’t use it here. He just wanted to bring it back to America to show people. I would post a picture on here if I could.

  3. The numbers are suspect. Nokia’s number matches to their financial reporting, RIM number is some kind of guesswork, as they do not report “normal” quarters. Apple’s reported number is 14.1, not 14.5 as in the text and definitely not 15.4 as in the graph.

    Smells a bit fishy.

  4. Aside from device profile, that is what Nokia’s strategy should be — 100% web. Skip apps at the low end. This is why they will fail. It is odd to watch all of this play out, because a solid strategy is not copying Apple, but determining what the rest of the world needs, and they don’t need apps, but they do need the web

  5. Ames Tiedeman

    Look at the short history of the cell/wireless industry. Go back to 1992 in America. Who was on top? Motorola. Heck in the early 1990’s everyone in even South Korea was using a Motorola phone. Who crushed MOT? The boys from Finland, Nokia! Everyone thought it was a Japanese company. Remember? Then what happened over the next 15 years? You had many players and the industry was fragmented. You had Rimm, Samsung, LG, MOT, Nokia, and others competing vigorously up until the launch of the iphone. Now you have the great consolidation. You have Apple grabbing share and running fast. What is the lesson here? Once you are on top and fall you don’t get up in this industry. We went from Motorola, to Nokia, to Rimm and now to Apple. Nokia will only lose more share. In 15 years who will be on top? This is impossible to know. If history is any guide it will be a company no one has ever heard of…

  6. Ames Tiedeman

    I don’t think the folks at RIMM ever saw this coming so quickly, if at all. Look at this data. It will only get worse for RIMM:

    According to survey respondents to a ChangeWave Research survey of over 4,000 customers, more than 40 percent of Sprint/Nextel and T-Mobile customers would seriously considering buying an iPhone were it available to them, as would just over a majority of Verizon customers.

    If over a majority of customers at Verizon switch to the iPhone this is over 45 million new users for Apple just from Verizon alone. How long until T-Mobile gets an iphone? When does Apple reach 250 million users wold wide? I would say by 2015 if China takes off.

  7. I find these stats highly suspect. Apple may have shipped a greater number of ios device but phones I doubt it. As fir an insurmountable lead or even a lead that’s difficult to overcome…well Android passed apple a while ago in handsets activated which is a truer barometer of market share than units shipped (which is simply an indicator of apples whishful thinking). steve jobs ridiculous desperate rant claiming in ridiculous fashion that they were activating 275 000 units a day was an attempt to lump all ios devices in order to pad his numbers.

  8. Insighter

    Unbeatable? I remember that Sony was unbeatable when PS2 came out post year 2000 and Nittendo looked as if they were going down the toilet. And sure Motorola and RIM looked unbeatable at one point. Lets see.

  9. You don’t need a report to see android is fragmenting. There are no two android running the same OS that look or operate the same … Even from the same manufacturer! Then add in telco skins and different size screens, you have Linux or winCE … You don’t even have to look in the stores, just look at a best buy ad – EVERY android device not only looks different but is priced from$199 to $.01 ( with contract of course) while every iPhone ad is exactly the same and no discounting. Consumers get it – if I want a bargain smartphone, I buy an android but if I want a unified and consistent one, I buy an iPhone … Same with RIM, are there two rim devices that run the same look & feel? Every iPhone sold is $400 (with subsidies) in apples revenue … Every android or win7 phone is $7-$10 in google or MS … GAME OVER …

    • I believe GM is going the unified route as well… every car will now be a Fiero… Red in color and if you change the tires, radio or engine oil – they will no longer warranty the vehicle!

      assimilate or die!

    • I think when analysts talk about “fragmentation” they mean something different from what geeks mean. Android phones, despite superficial differences, have pretty much the same specs. But analysts are talking about market fragmentation.

      Apple has 18% of the smart phone market with a single device. There are maybe 75-80 Android phones so no single Android device comes close. Of those 75-80, only a small number can recoup their development costs.

      If Android has roughly the same market share as iOS, then for the cost to market to be same, Android phone manufacturers can spend per device only an average of 1/75 that Apple does. Even if cost to market per device is 1/20 that of the iPhone, they have to sell 4 times as many to make the same profit.

      This is why Apple has 55% of the profit from smartphone sales.

  10. Nokia could have bought Palm, like MicroSoft could have bought Palm, but they would have both faced the same problem: Ditching all the other mobile OSes they’ve been tied to for the last decade. Nokia has various flavors of open source Symbian which everyone but Nokia has abandoned and they’ve formed an unholy alliance with Intel to try and jumpstart MeeGo. But the only thing happening at Nokia is that all their top execs are saying, “Me go away from Nokia now.”

  11. Nokia should have purchased Palm if only to have a mobile web strategy. Imagine this scenario: Apple comes out with a low cost device the size of an iPod mini that is totally WebKit based. Even the call interface is based on WebKit. Imagine it only runs web apps and has minimal memory (cost) needs and requirements. The cost somewhere around $50 subsidized.

    Aside from device profile, that is what Nokia’s strategy should be — 100% web. Skip apps at the low end. This is why they will fail. It is odd to watch all of this play out, because a solid strategy is not copying Apple, but determining what the rest of the world needs, and they don’t need apps, but they do need the web.

    Nokia should be synonymous with the cloud.

    • Rendering pages require a lot of memory, look at mem consuption of browser on PC, you still need o lot of mem on board. Any how Nokia Symbian devices are availlable at 1€ subsidised and some are bellow 150€ contract free…

  12. Unless I’m reading this wrong, the data says that they sold more in that particular quarter, not that they are even close to passing them in market share.

    Also, Apple’s quarter included September, one of Smartphone’s biggest months. Rim’s ended in August, typically one of the slowest.

    • What is sold per time period is what is called “market share.” What you are referring to is “user share” or “install base.” This is a 3rd parties estimates, not a comparison of 2 different qtrly reports with different time periods.

    • This is not Apple comparing their quarterly #s with RIMMs quarterly #s, which they did and is not useful. This is an independent research firm’s estimates for the calendar quarter. Still likely to be inaccurate, but there will be more estimates.

    • if a tree falls in the forest without anyone there to hear it… it certainly does create what is commonly referred to as sound (waves of energy which will undoubted ripple the globe)

      if a tree falls in the forest and Jesus Christ himself tells everyone it did not make a sound… only true idiots will believe him!

      What is the message you are hearing?

  13. chrisdpratt

    I think “unbeatable” is indeed going a bit far. I think it’s perfectly valid that competitors will have a long hard road in front of them to beat Apple, but it’s feasible. However, as long as Apple does not grow complacent in its supremacy (the downfall of first Microsoft and now RIM), and continues to innovate in the smartphone space, I can see them remaining a dominant force far into the foreseeable future.