Samsung should pass Nokia to become the top cellphone maker of any kind in 2012, Sanford Bernstein analyst Mark Newman said in a research note Thursday. After passing Apple in smartphones, it was now due to eclipse Nokia's once-unassailable lead in cellphones of any kind. Newman saw Samsung as being unique in having both a strong position in smartphones and a willingness to cater down to the very low end, preventing it from losing out in basic phones like Apple and smartphones like Nokia.
"Samsung has the largest scale advantage, broadest product portfolio and one of the broadest distribution networks (second only to Nokia)," he said. "Samsung captures a larger share of the value chain of a mobile phone than any other player, and therefore is much less sensitive to immediate moves in market shares. We believe this means that [Samsung] is the safest bet on the 'mobile revolution' story."
Whether or not that happens in the short term isn't certain. Samsung's smartphone lead in the summer was helped mostly by customers waiting for the iPhone 4S, likely leading to Apple getting several million or more sales than it would have otherwise. Samsung has phones like the Galaxy Nexus, but its core 2011 phones are now several months old and won't likely be replaced until Mobile World Congress in February, with shipping unlikely until months later.
The Korean firm equally faces a push from companies that specialize in low-end Android phones, such as Huawei or ZTE.