If you bought a smartphone in 2011 — and didn’t buy a PC — you were part of a history-making trend.
For the first year ever, total PC sales around the world were outpaced by total smartphone sales, in units at least, according to data released Friday by market analyst firm Canalsys. Nearly 488 million smartphones were shipped, compared to just (just!) 415 million PCs.
Of course, this doesn’t mean PCs are dead. The global PC market grew 15% in 2011, Canalsys says — almost entirely because of the 274% increase in tablet sales, which itself is largely due to the iPad. (Canalsys counts the tablet as a PC, which is not exactly a settled point).
The real story here is the inexorable rise of the smartphone. Total shipments of the devices grew by a whopping 63% over 2011. Again, this was partly driven by the success of Apple; thanks to the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, the Cupertino company not only smashed the record for the most smart phones shipped globally by any single vendor in one quarter, it also displaced Nokia as the world’s leading smartphone vendor. (Nokia’s Symbian-based devices, very popular in the global market count as smartphones.)
For those of us in the U.S. who are quite familiar with — even blaze about — the iPhone’s market dominance, this global performance is something of an untold story. Apple shipped an incredible 93.1 million iPhones worldwide in 2011, a growth of 96% over 2010.
Figures like that simply have not been seen before. Nokia’s record was 28 million smartphones shipped in a quarter; Apple’s new record, set in Q4 of 2011, is 38 million. To be fair, the record would have been smashed with or without Apple; Samsung shipped 33 million smartphones in Q4.