Samsung, Apple, Dominate 2012 Smartphone Sales

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - When it comes to smartphone sales, Samsung and Apple ( AAPL) are tops. Combined, they accounted for more than half of all smartphone sales worldwide last year. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that total mobile phone sales - smartphones and featurephones - were actually down nearly 2% from 2011.

According to the latest numbers from Gartner, Samsung and Apple combined accounted for 52% of all smartphone sales around the world in the fourth quarter of 2012. That's up from 46.4% in the third quarter.

The big surprise is who came in third. Gartner says, due to a great fourth quarter, China's Huawei jumped into third place for the year. It's the first time the company has reached the top three on the smartphone vendors list. Huawei was up nearly 64% year-over-year.

But while smartphone sales are growing overall, mobile phone sales are headed in the opposite direction. If you add sales of featuresphones (that's the official term for non-smartphones) to smartphone sales, the industry saw a 1.7% overall decline. That shouldn't be a huge surprise. Buyers want all the features and functionality they can get - at the lowest price possible - and smartphones are very expensive to purchase in many countries.

When you look at the global mobile phone sales numbers, Samsung is still in first place with a 22% market share in 2012. Surprisingly, in second place is Nokia ( NOK). Because of heavy sales of Nokia's Asha featurephones in developing nations, the Finnish handset maker accounted for 19.1% of global phone sales - down nearly 5% from the previous year. In third place was Apple, with 7.5% overall.

ZTE took fourth place with 3.9% and LG accounted for 3.3%, while Huawei was 2.7%. TCL was in seventh place with 2.1%, closely followed by BlackBerry ( BBRY) with 2% and Motorola with 1.9%. HTC rounded out the top ten with 1.8%.

Gartner also measured sales by mobile operating systems and found that nearly 70% of all smartphones purchased in the fourth quarter of 2012 ran on Google's ( GOOG) Android OS and about 21% used Apple's iOS. Some 3.5% of phones ran on BlackBerry, 3% on Microsoft ( MSFT), 1.3% on Samsung's Bada featurephone OS, and 1.2% on Symbian.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.