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1 More Way Samsung Is Beating Apple Inc. (AAPL) — for Now

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Quite a few commenters weren’t keen on the idea of grouping smartphones, tablets, and traditional PCs all together in one big computing bucket. Well, I’m not the only one who looks at the computing landscape through this lens.

Market researcher IDC has now released its latest report on connected device shipments in 2012, with the definition of connected devices including smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs, and portable PCs. When looking at the big picture, there were a total of 367.7 million connected device units shipped in the fourth quarter, bringing the full-year total up to 1.2 billion.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)That total represents 29.1% growth in connected devices for the year, with quite literally all of that growth coming from mobile form factors.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before
With smartphones now dominating the landscape in unit terms, in part due to their lower price and broad use cases, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung are the top two connected device vendors, much like how the frenemies are the top two smartphone vendors.

In the third quarter, Samsung had a wide lead over Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), with a total 21.8% market share of connected devices. At the time, Apple was only able to garner 15.1% of the broader market since many consumers were putting off purchases in anticipation of Apple product launches in the fourth quarter such as the iPhone 5, which garnered no shortage of media attention.

By year’s end, the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini helped Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) surge to close most of the gap and finished the year neck-and-neck with its South Korean supplier.

Connected Device Vendor Q4 2012 Units Q4 2012 Market Share
Samsung 77.9 million 21.2%
Apple 74.8 million 20.3%
Lenovo 24.3 million 6.6%
Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) 15.1 million 4.1%
Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) 11.1 million 3%

Source: IDC.

That’s less than a 1% lead that Samsung was enjoying in the fourth quarter of 2012, although it was still ahead of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) by 2.6% for the entire year. What’s so striking is that much on the smartphone operating system front, the hardware market is becoming a clear duopoly.

With mobile platforms, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and iOS now power 91% of smartphones shipped. With connected devices, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung were 41.5% of the market. That combined share is less, which is inevitable since the hardware industry is much more competitive than operating systems.

Sony has come out of left field and was able to rank within the top five smartphone vendors in the fourth quarter also, which was enough to earn it the No. 5 spot in the broader connected devices market. Even though its Xperia lineup of Android smartphones doesn’t make headlines in the U.S., that doesn’t mean they can’t hold their own in emerging markets or in its home market of Japan.

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