According to global shipment number estimates from Canalys, smartphone shipments overtook total client PC shipment numbers for the first time in 2011. The so-called “total client PCs” category includes tablets, netbooks, laptops, and desktops.
Total smartphone shipments in Q4 2011 grew 57% over the same time in 2010. Both Q4 and full-year shipment numbers for smartphones significantly top shipment numbers for total client PCs.
Smartphones, thanks to modern mobile OSes like Android and iOS, are able to do so much more than their older counterparts from the early 2000s. Mobile websites are a lot more accessible and functional on smartphones. Mobile apps are booming and offer a ton of entertainment, utility, connectivity, and social features to users. A lot of higher-end smartphones are even more affordable than ever. Plus, despite some carriers trying to gouge their users, mobile data plans have been cheap enough (and required) for smartphone users to be connected all the time without worrying too much about data overages, at least in the US. Given the combination of these circumstances, it’s no surprise that a lot of people chose to spend their money on smartphones in 2011.
Also notable is the huge growth of tablets in 2011 compared to 2010. Sure, total tablet shipment numbers only equal 17% of smartphone shipments, but from 2010 to 2011, tablet shipments grew 274.2% compared to only 62.7% growth in the smartphone category. Canalys also estimates that in 2012 smartphone shipments will slow because several manufacturers are going to focus on quality and high-margin, flagship products rather than continuing to flood the market with lower-end, aggressively-priced devices. So if tablet growth continues to more than double this year, both PCs (netbooks, laptops, and desktops) and smartphones are going to have a real fight on their hands.
Canalys also provided smartphone growth numbers according to platform. Not surprisingly, Android topped the charts. How could it not, given all the manufacturers producing Android phones? Samsung’s success alone with the Galaxy S II,, and probably accounts for the lion’s share of the Android shipment numbers. iOS wasn’t too far behind Android (148.7%) in growth from Q4 of 2010 to Q4 of 2011 at 128.1%, but when you look at the whole year’s numbers, iOS falls further behind Android — 244.1% vs. 96.0% growth. Symbian still rounds out the top three smartphone OSes, but it suffered a 41% drop in Q4 2011 compared to Q4 2010. Windows Phone numbers didn’t look so good in 2011, but analysts are optimistic given Nokia’s decent performance with the Lumia line.
Canalys provides a lot more detail in their press release regarding these numbers, so feel free to check it out for a more in-depth look at the state of computers in 2011.