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Report: Smartphones Overtook PCs in Shipped Units in 2011

Canalys reports that, for the first time ever, the total annual global shipments of smartphones exceeded client desktops, notebooks, netbooks and tablets combined in 2011.

In 4Q11 alone, vendors shipped 158.5 million smartphones, up 57-percent from the 101.2 million units shipped exactly one year ago. The total number of client PCs was 120.2 million in that same quarter, 57.9 million of which were notebooks, 29.1 million that were desktops, and 26.5 million that were tablets. Netbooks came in last with a quarterly shipment number of a mere 6.7 million units.

As for the entire year of 2011, notebooks saw the most units sold, an incredible 209.6 million shipments. In second place were desktops with 112.4 million followed by the tablet sector with a hearty 63.2 million units. But don't let those numbers fool you: the tablet sector saw the most growth when compared to 2010, jumping up to 274.2-percent. Desktops only grew 2.3-percent when compared to 2010's final numbers, and netbooks continue to die out with a -25.3-percent loss.

"In 2011 we saw a fall in demand for netbooks, and slowing demand for notebooks and desktops as a direct result of rising interest in pads (tablets)," said Chris Jones, Canalys VP and Principal Analyst. "But pads have had negligible impact on smart phone volumes and markets across the globe have seen persistent and substantial growth through 2011."

"Smart phone shipments overtaking those of client PCs should be seen as a significant milestone," Jones added. "In the space of a few years, smart phones have grown from being a niche product segment at the high-end of the mobile phone market to becoming a truly mass-market proposition. The greater availability of smart phones at lower price points has helped tremendously, but there has been a driving trend of increasing consumer appetite for Internet browsing, content consumption and engaging with apps and services on mobile devices."

The report claims that for 2012, smartphone market growth will slow as vendors exercise greater cost control and discipline -- they'll put more focus on profitability. It also claims that vendors who previously focused on dominating the low-end market with aggressive pricing -- Huawei, ZTE and LG to name a few -- are now eying the higher tiers. Even expensive flagship models aimed at raising selling prices and improving margins will appear in more numbers in 2012.

Canalys estimates that 237.8 million Android devices shipped worldwide during 2011, 81.9 million units in 4Q11 alone. Apple's iOS fell into second place, seeing 93.1 million units shipped in 2011 followed by Symbian (80.1M), BlackBerry (51.4M), bada (13.2M) and Windows Phone (6.8M). Microsoft's OS actually saw a nasty decrease in units shipped compared to 2010 with a -43.3-percent loss. Hopefully Nokia will be able to turn Microsoft's decline around.

To read the full report, head here.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • stingstang
    Thanks, Zukerberg. You've now helped pay 1% of any one bill concerning government finances...
  • kewlmunky
    Most people get a new phone every two years, some every year so it's not a surprise.
    You can probably thank the iPhone 4S for that one. Not something I'm proud of admitting, I'm not an Apple, fan.
  • rantoc
    Phones are replaced at the rate some other people change underwear, be it quality problems, must have the latest model fixation or simply its such a huge upgrade.

    Computers on the other hand lasts for several years, have good performance and many components are upgradeable/replaceable unlike a phone so there is no need to buy a new each year or so.
  • memadmax
    Dude, "smartphones" are PDA's, along with iPads/tablets.....

    But calling them "PDA's" isn't cool huh? That would make it sound like a Palmpilot... and we can't have that, right????
  • ojas
    Report: Smartphones Overtook PCs in Shipped Units in 2011

    I hate such comparsions. i mean, there are more PCs than supercomputers, so are supercomputers dead?

    Two different things intended for two different purposes with a different useful life span. If our 8 year old P4 based PC can still perform basic office tasks, run XP and be a good low-cost alternative to buying a new PC, why would anyone change it?

    Smartphone tech is much newer than PC tech, so naturally it grows faster.
  • in_the_loop
    Dumb comparasion.
    Smartphones and Pc;s are two different categories.
    They could just as well have had the headline: "Total number of toothpicks sold is larger than the number of smartphones."

    First, in a family every member probably has his own smartphone, but I think there are fewer computers per person.
    Secondly, I think the normal person changes his phone more often than a Pc.
    And third, many are buying their first smartphone these days, things will settle down after this.

  • DroKing
    Maybe this day will come where we can actually get quality phones that last 6-8 yrs with actual software upgrades and maybe parts able to be upgraded at our discretion ohh one can dream!
  • MarioJP
    Not really a comparison. You upgrade phones like you're buying clothes. My PC is 5 years old, yet can run anything you throw at it. Of course smartphones sells, because once you buy a smartphone you are stuck with the same hardware and software to some extent till the next upgrade. People still build PC's for high end gaming but you don't see that being reported as "sales" go figure.
  • applegetsmelaid
    Don't see the point of articles like these. That's like saying 20 oz water bottles have more units shipped than one gallon jugs.