The Evolution of the Mobile Phone Market

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Background

In a relatively short amount of time, mobile phones have become incredibly advanced. At the present time, most people can’t seem to live without their mobile phones, even just for a day. Also, the possibilities for the future are seemingly endless because of the advancements in technology. Today, the mobile phone landscape looks very different than it did about three decades ago. For example, back in 1993, the brand Motorola accounted for over half of the mobile phone market. However, when 2021 came, its market share had decreased to just 2.2%. How do you think this happened, and how has the mobile phone market changed over the years?

In the animation below, you will be able to see the evolution of the mobile phone market from 1993 to 2021.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE MOBILE PHONE MARKET IN 30 YEARS

THE EVOLUTION OF THE MOBILE PHONE MARKET IN 30 YEARS

Dec 1995

Dec 2000

Dec 2005

Dec 2010

Dec 2015

Dec 2020

MOTOROLA

33%

16%

17%

2%

2%

2%

NOKIA

22%

29%

32%

28%

9%

1%

APPLE

-

-

-

23%

20%

26%

SAMSUNG

1%

5%

13%

14%

32%

31%

XIAOMI

-

-

-

-

1%

9%

LG

-

2%

7%

6%

4%

2%

SONY

11%

10%

6%

6%

3%

1%

SIEMENS

2%

6%

4%

-

-

-

NEC

8%

-

-

-

-

-

HTC

-

-

-

-

2%

0%

LENOVO

-

-

-

-

1%

1%

PALM

-

-

8%

-

-

-

HUAWEI

-

-

-

-

2%

11%

OPPO

-

-

-

-

0%

5%

BLACKBERRY

-

2%

7%

16%

1%

-

OTHER

24%

31%

7%

5%

21%

12%

The Beginning of the Mobile Phone Industry

Motorola is known to be a pioneer in the mobile phone industry. It launched one of the first commercially available mobile phones in 1983, which was the DynaTAC 800X. It was a groundbreaking analog phone that cost around $4,000. It also offered users up to 30 minutes of talk time before its battery ran out and needed to be recharged. Over the next few years, Motorola went to launch a few more devices, and it became a dominant player in the budding industry in 1992.

a Motorola mobile phone

In the early days of the mobile phone industry, the only rival of Motorola was the Finnish multinational Nokia. However, in the mid-1990s, other competitors entered the mobile phone market like Siemens and Sony. These brands started to gain some solid footing, which chipped away at Motorola’s dominance. When September 1995 came, the market share of Motorola was down to 32.1%.

In January 1999, Nokia surpassed Motorola as the leading phone manufacturer, with 21.4% of the global market share. That was just a bit higher than the 20.8% of Motorola. One of the factors that made Nokia surpass Motorola as the leading mobile phone manufacturer was the major headway the company was created in the digital phone space. An example was when it released the first mobile phone to have a web browser.[1]

The Launch of the iPhone

person holding an iPhone

In 2007, the mobile phone market changed when the iPhone was launched. Steve Jobs presented the iPhone at the San Francisco Macworld Expo. It was shown as three products combined into one device, which are a touchscreen iPod, a groundbreaking cell phone, and an internet communications device. A year after that, the App Store was launched by Apple, which gave people the capability to download applications onto their iPhones. This enhanced the functionality of the phone while allowing consumers to customize their mobile phones at the same time.

The launch of the iPhone was the start of a new era of smartphones. In less than two years after it was introduced, Apple had gained 17.4% of the mobile phone market. During that time, the market share of Motorola had shrunk down to 4.9%. Apple gained about 27.3% of the global mobile market by the end of 2021. The iPhone was a key part of the growth of the tech giant, as it drives over 50% of the company’s total revenue.[1]

The Mobile Phone Market Today

The emergence of the iPhone was the beginning of a new, software-driven era. Even though Motorola had mastered the hardware-driven era, it failed to keep up when the tides changed. There were many other mobile phone companies that entered the market but also failed to adapt or keep up. These include Blackberry or formerly RIM, Sony, LG, and Palm.

However, Apple is not alone. The fame of Google’s Android mobile operating system has aided competitors like Samsung from South Korea and Huawei and Xiaomi from China to flourish. Each of these companies is establishing strong bases in the global mobile phone market today.[1]

SMARTPHONE MARKET SHARE WORLDWIDE 2009-2021, BY BRAND

SMARTPHONE MARKET SHARE WORLDWIDE 2009-2022, BY BRAND


2009 Q4

2010 Q4

2011 Q4

2012 Q4

2013 Q4

2014 Q4

2015 Q4

2016 Q4

2017 Q4

2018 Q4

2019 Q4

2020 Q4

2021 Q4

NOKIA

39%

28%

12%

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

APPLE

16%

16%

23%

21%

17%

20%

19%

18%

20%

18%

20%

23%

23%

SAMSUNG

3%

9%

23%

29%

29%

20%

20%

18%

19%

19%

19%

19%

19%

XIAOMI

-

-

-

-

2%

4%

5%

3%

7%

8%

9%

11%

12%

LG

-

-

-

4%

5%

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

SONY

-

-

4%

5%

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

HTC

5%

9%

6%

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

LENOVO

-

-

-

4%

5%

4%

5%

-

-

-

-

-

-

HUAWEI

-

-

4%

5%

6%

6%

8%

11%

11%

16%

15%

8%

-

OPPO

-

-

-

-

-

-

4%

7%

7%

8%

8%

9%

8%

BLACKBERRY

20%

14%

8%

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

ZTE

-

-

4%

4%

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

VIVO

-

-

-

-

-

-

3%

6%

-

-

-

-

8%

OTHER

18%

24%

16%

24%

37%

46%

36%

38%

37%

32%

29%

29%

29%

During the third quarter of 2021, Samsung held the largest slice of the global smartphone market by shipments. But Apple regained ground when the iPhone 12 was launched at the end of 2020. However, Huawei did not make it to the leading give vendors when they dropped out of the previous quarter. Xiaomi, on the other hand, had a tight grip on the third position.[2]

Samsung, a key player in the mobile phone market, is consistently among the global leading smartphone vendors today. Apple and Samsung are two major companies that are always challenging for the top spot. Huawei has also provided a strong challenge in recent years. In fact, as seen in the graph, the market share of Huawei reached 20% in the second quarter of 2020. However, strong performances from rivals and the effects of the United States trade ban have since seen Huawei fall outside the list of top five vendors by shipments.

smartphones in a store

The Galaxy series is Samsung’s main line of smartphone products. The first Samsung Galaxy smartphone was released in April 2009. The company had shipped 75.5 million units of smartphones in the 2nd quarter of 2019, but the figure fell to 54.2 million units by the 2nd quarter of 2020. Even though their shipments increased during the year, they fell back to 59 million units in the 2nd quarter of 2021.[2]

Apple, being one of the major manufacturers of smartphones worldwide, shipped over 90.1 million iPhones worldwide in the 4th quarter of 2020. Its sales tend to be very cyclical, peaking in the 4th quarter every year. In the 2nd quarter of 2021, Apple shipped 44.2 million units.

Conclusion

The mobile phone market indeed underwent a lot of changes in the years since the first mobile phone was invented. A lot of brands attempted to introduce various technologies to conquer the mobile phone industry, but only a few brands today have prevailed. At the present time, the competition between the mobile phone brands remains tight.

There are also other brands that are starting to make a name in the industry with the hopes of also becoming big in the years to come. In fact, when you go to stores to purchase a cell phone, you will be offered many different brands that have various smartphone models and technologies. With this, we can say that the mobile phone market will continuously thrive for many more years.

References

[1] Eagle, J. (2022, May 4). Animation: How the mobile phone market has evolved over 30 years. Visual Capitalist. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.visualcapitalist.com/cp/how-mobile-phone-market-has-evolved-since-1993/

[2] O’Dea, S. (2022, May 4). Smartphone market share 2022. Statista. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/271496/global-market-share-held-by-smartphone-vendors-since-4th-quarter-2009/  

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