After a steady decline, long-time mobile phone market leader Nokia finally lost the top spot during 2011's opening quarter.
It has also been relegated to second place in the smartphone sub-segment, where its market share has more than halved in the past year as HTC and Samsung have run riot.
Figures from IDC reveal western European mobile phone shipments increased five per cent annually in Q1 2011 to 45 million. Leading vendor Samsung matched market growth and posted unit shipments of 13.2 million and market share of 29.3 per cent.
Nokia now occupies second spot, having seen its market shrink by almost five points in the past 12 months to its Q1 level of 27.9 per cent. The Finnish firm saw Q1 shipments slump 10 per cent to 12.6 million.
Apple, in third spot with 9.8 per cent of the market, and RIM, fourth with 7.8 per cent, both grew shipments by almost 50 per cent year on year during Q1. HTC is now just a lick of paint behind RIM as western Europe's fifth biggest phone maker. The Taiwanese manufacturer grew shipments 271 per cent annually during the quarter.
In the smartphone arena, Nokia's demise is even more stark. The vendor's market share has fallen from 40.6 to 19.6 per cent since this time last year, and its Q1 2011 shipments declined 15 per cent year on year to 4.2 million. This is despite market-wide shipment growth of 76 per cent.
Apple took the smartphone crown in Q1, accounting for 20.8 per cent of the 21.2 million devices shipped. RIM and HTC were third and fourth respectively, each holding about 16.5 per cent of the market. Samsung, in fifth, was the quarter's biggest winner, with sales up 744 per cent annually and market share rising from 2.5 per cent to 12.1 per cent.
Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager at IDC, said: "Nokia is one of the most recognised and appreciated brands in Europe, but Samsung was the one understanding the trends first and moving faster. Samsung understood early the trend on touchscreen devices and became the market leader on feature-phones by providing a full range of devices at very competitive prices."
Stephen Elop (pictured) was brought in as Nokia chief executive in September. Five months later, a sensational internal memo written by the Canadian, in which he slammed his new employer for being years behind its rivals, was leaked to the press.
"While competitors poured flames on our market share, what happened at Nokia? We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time," he wrote.
Shortly afterwards, Elop made his big play to get Nokia back in shape – a partnership with Microsoft. The tie-up is aimed at cultivating a leading mobile ecosystem to win back lost market share from Apple and Android-based device makers. Thousands of job losses are now expected at the Finnish company.
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