It’s becoming clearer than ever how important a role smartphones will play in digital music growth in the coming years, in the developed and developing worlds alike.

The release of new stats for smartphone shipments in the third quarter of 2012 should be seized upon by the music industry, then. Step forward IDC and Juniper Research, even if they disagree on some of the details.

So, IDC claims that 179.7m smartphones were shipped in Q3, up 45.3% year-on-year. Juniper pegs the total a bit lower at 157m, up 36.5%.

Both agree that Samsung is the clear market leader with 56.3m shipments, nearly double that of its closest rival Apple’s 26.9m iPhones. It’s then a long way back to RIM/BlackBerry (7.7m) in third place.

Here are two key takeaways from these stats. First, Samsung’s rise, which means the company’s evolving digital music strategy has the potential to make a real impact. A partnership with 7digital and the acquisition of mSpot have provided pointers, but rightsholders will be eager for more details on how Samsung plans to push music in 2013.

Second: ZTE. The Chinese manufacturer has been growing fast in recent years thanks to sales in its home market, and now expansion abroad: with 7.5m shipments in Q3, it looks likely to overtake RIM by Christmas to become the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer.

Its strength selling affordable smartphones in emerging markets should also make it worthy of more attention from the music industry in 2013.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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