Samsung Passes Apple as Biggest Chip Buyer in 2012
Samsung surged past Apple last year to become the world's leading maker of smartphones and now Gartner says the South Korean tech giant also overtook the iPhone maker in 2012 as the biggest buyer of semiconductors.
Together, Samsung and Apple gobbled up 15 percent of all semiconductors last year, spending $45.3 billion in 2012 on processors and chipsets for their mobile devices and computer products, even as the overall semiconductor market shrunk by 3 percent, the research firm said. The two tech giants increased their semiconductor spending by $7.9 billion from 2011, according to Gartner (see the full Top 10 chart below).
Samsung wound up shelling out $23.9 billion on semiconductors last year, a 28.9 percent increase from the $18.6 billion the company spent in 2011 and good for an 8 percent share of total semiconductor spending in 2012. Apple's final semiconductor bill of $21.4 billion represented a 13.6 percent jump from the $18.8 billion the company spent on chips in 2011, and Cupertino wound up buying 7.2 percent of semiconductors sold last year.
Samsung, of course, manufactured a good portion of its own, Apple's, and others' semiconductors—for the purposes of its year-end report, Gartner treated the South Korean company as a consumer not a seller.
AMD Loses $1.18B in 2012, Promises Changes
Advanced Micro Devices took a step back financially in 2012 but executives said Tuesday that the company's investments in areas like low-power chips for tablets and the data center would straighten the ship in the coming years.
AMD's fourth-quarter and full-year numbers were down across the board, with fourth-quarter sales of $1.16 billion down 31 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011, and overall revenue of $5.42 billion for 2012 down nearly 18 percent from the previous year.
The net income picture was equally distressing for a company which fought its way back to profitability a few years ago following a long string of quarters in the red, only to find itself on the wrong side of the profit-loss column once again. AMD lost $473 million in its fourth quarter and lost $1.18 billion for the year after reporting positive net income of $491 million in 2011.
The chip maker's larger rival Intel reported similarly flagging numbers in its own year-end earnings report last week, but AMD's year-over-year declines were steeper in most categories, its margins thinner, and the hit to investors—a loss of $1.60 per share in 2012—more dear.
"AMD continues to evolve our operating model and diversify our product portfolio with the changing PC environment," AMD president and CEO Rory Read said in a statement. "Innovation is the core of our long-term growth. The investments we are making in technology today are focused on leveraging our distinctive IP to drive growth in ultra low-power client devices, semi-custom SoCs and dense servers.
Call of Duty Tops Tough Year for Video Game Sales
Video game sales dropped 22 percent in December compared to the same time in 2011, closing out a tough year for the industry.
Total spending on new physical hardware, software and accessories topped $3.21 billion last month, down from $4.1 billion a year earlier, according to new data from the NPD Group. For the year overall, total game sales dropped 22 percent to $13.26 billion.
However, the NPD Group's industry analyst, Liam Callahan, said the video game market has grown in recent years. It makes sense to compare last month's results to December 2005, which was the last time the industry was transitioning between console generations with the launch of a new platform.
"As a testament to how much the retail market has grown, overall physical dollar sales in December 2012 are up 10 percent when compared to December 2005," he said.
New software sales saw the steepest decline during December, falling 26 percent from $2.07 billion in December 2011 to $1.54 billion last month. For the year, software sales dropped 23 percent to $6.71 billion. But much of the decline was simply that publishers released fewer games.
"A major culprit in the decline in retail sales in 2012 was the lack of new releases," Callahan said.
Samsung, Apple Close Out 2012 on Top
Samsung ended the year on top, capturing approximately 27 percent of the U.S. mobile phone market, according to data from comScore.
In the three months ending in November, 26.9 percent of mobile phones in the U.S. were made by Samsung, a 1.2 percent increase. The company has seen great success with flagship devices like the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III. That helped keep Google's Android operating system atop the OS heap with 53.7 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, a 1.1 percent increase.
Apple was the second most popular phone maker with 18.5 percent of the market, up 1.4 percent. The company's iOS platform also came in second on the smartphone front, capturing 35 percent of the market.
LG came in third, falling 0.7 percent to 17.5 percent overall. Google-owned Motorola had 10.4 percent of the mobile phone market, despite a 0.8 percent decrease, while HTC continued to play caboose with less than 6 percent.
Similar stats were reported in November by Gartner, which saw Nokia fall from No. 3 to No. 7 amidst competition from Apple and Samsung.
Nielsen: Apple, Google Big Winners in Year of the Smartphone
Capping off a year that saw smartphones take over the U.S. handset market, Nielsen is offering up a chart-laden roundup of some of 2012's biggest statistical stories in the mobile and digital arenas.
It was actually early in 2012 that smartphone owners became the majority of U.S. mobile subscribers for the first time, according to Nielsen, which reported in May that smartphone owners had grown from 47.8 percent of all mobile subscribers in December 2011 to 50.4 percent in March 2012.
By the third quarter of 2012, smartphone owners represented 56 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers, according to the research firm.
Unsurprisingly, that means Google and Apple are doing pretty well these days. Those two companies combined for an 87 percent share of the U.S. smartphone operating system market in the third quarter, with Google's Android running 52 percent of smartphones and Apple's iPhone-exclusive iOS accounting for 35 percent. Those numbers dwarf Research in Motion's third-place BlackBerry OS (7 percent) and Microsoft's fourth-place Windows Phone (2 percent).
Nielsen's listings of the top 10 apps for iPhones and Android phones also yields some interesting data. The No. 1 iPhone app in 2012 in terms of unique users was Maps with an average of 32.4 million users per month from January through October, according to the research firm.
Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer Make Time’s Person of the Year Shortlist
President Barack Obama today walked away with another accolade: Time magazine's Person of the Year.
The president's name was, however, was followed closely by two runner-up techies — blogger Malala Yousafzai and Apple chief Tim Cook.
Yousafzai was dubbed "The Fighter" by the magazine, which focused on the 17-year-old Pakistani girl's efforts to speak out in a conservative nation that cracked down on the rights of women and children. In October, two gunmen boarded Yousafzai's school bus and shot her in the head in retribution for blog posts that were critical of the regime. Amazingly, she survived the attack, and now serves as inspiration for people around the world.
Meanwhile, Tim Cook was named second runner-up after stepping into the shoes left by Steve Jobs, who passed away in Oct. 2011.
Cook has experienced highs — more than 5 million iPhone 5 sales in the first three days, and lows — publicly apologizing for the much lambasted iOS 6 Maps app. But "The Technologist," as Time nicknamed him, has also taken the company overseas in a way Jobs never did. This year, in addition to releasing a redesigned MacBook Pro, two new iPods, the third- and fourth-generation iPads, and the iPad mini, the Apple chief managed to sell 2 million iPhone 5 devices in China in three days, growing Cupertino's revenue from the country by $10 million, according to Time.
Infographic: Free Apps Dominated Apple’s App Store in 2012
This year has been a good one for iOS developers, according to an AppsFire infographic. More than 339,160 apps hit the App Store this year — up from about 15,000 in 2008.
"Free is clearly prevailing over paid," Appsfire said, adding that 74 percent of apps published in 2008 came with a price tag, compared to only 34 percent this year. "This can be explained by the growing popularity of in-app purchase as a way to efficiently monetize the app," founder Ouriel Ohayon wrote in a blog post.
Free or paid, well over 1 million apps have been created for iOS devices over the years, though users have likely never even heard of most of them. Only 111,540 apps have gained any traction.
According to the graphic, a mere 3 percent earned five-star ratings; most fell into the three-star (34 percent) and two-star (36 percent) categories. "This stresses how difficult discovery is if you're not part of the elite group," Ohayon said.
Meanwhile, the last five years produced another 640,380 apps that landed with a thud; another 273,285 App Store applications have since been retired. Ohayon said it's a "a red flag" when more than 25 percent of submitted and approved apps are then pulled from the store.
Google Zeitgeist: We Love iPad, One Direction
The year-end lists keep coming, and Google today unveiled its annual Zeitgeist, which is an "in-depth look at the 'spirit of the times' as seen through the billions of searches on Google over the past year," Google said in a Wednesday blog post.
The search giant's Zeitgeist 2012 page splits its top searches into 11 categories: overall searches, images, athletes, events, people, feature films, TV shows, performing artists, consumer electronics, airlines, and Google+ hashtags.
The debate of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which led to sites like Google and Wikipedia darkening or censoring their websites in protest earlier this year, also prompted a number of searches from people who wanted to know what the fuss was all about.