Here’s a Twist: Did Mobile Phone Sales Really Drop in 2012?

For the first time since 2009, worldwide sales of mobile phones dropped last year.

Research firm Gartner said Wednesday that mobile sales to end users — consumers who actually use the product — declined by 1.7 percent to 1.75 billion units, year over year. Anshul Gupta, the firm’s principal research analyst, attributed last year’s weaker worldwide mobile phone market to “tough economic conditions, shifting consumer preferences, and intense market competition.”

However, the results were uneven. Sales of smartphones did not take the same hit as their cheaper feature phone counterparts. In fact, sales of smartphones, a category dominated by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK), continued to push upward; higher-end devices accounted for more than half the market for the first time in 2012. The South Korea-based Samsung sold 385 million phones in 2012, of which 53.5 percent were smartphones, and Apple sold 130 million smartphones.

Those two companies were responsible for 52 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter, an increase from 46 percent in the previous quarter. In that three-month period, Samsung sales accelerated, leaving Apple behind; the company unloaded 64.5 million units, up 85.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. Apple sales only reached 43.5 million units, an increase of 22.6 percent, year over year…