Gartner: Samsung supplants Apple as #1 chip buyer

Samsung Exynos Octa 5 (CES 2013 slide 001)

South Korea’s Samsung has another reason to crow. After enduring talk that rival Apple would drop its rival for TSMC, demand for Samsung smartphones and tablets made it the largest customer of chips in 2012, replacing the iPhone and iPad maker in the worldwide chip eating challeng, reports said Thursday.

A Gartner report on semiconductor purchases also gives a rare glimpse into how much Apple is spending on chips for its smartphones and tablet devices. According to the researcher, Samsung increased spending on chips nearly double that of the Cupertino firm…

According to Bloomberg, Samsung’s purchases of semiconductors in 2012 rose 29 percent to $23.9 billion, while Apple spending increased fourteen percent to $21.4 billion. Of course, Samsung makes many, many devices compared to Apple so the finding shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Demand for Samsung devices allowed the company to resist what otherwise was a down year for global chip sales, which fell by three percent to $297.6 billion.

For it’s part, the high demand for Apple products has allowed the consumer electronics giant to scoff at sluggish sales of PCs. Besides Apple and Samsung, only Sony and Lenovo posted positive chip sales, per Gartner numbers.

Gartner (global semiconductor spending 2012)
Source: Gartner, January 2013. TAM = total available market.

Though anemic and reaching only single-digits, chip purchases by the two firms in 2012 rose 1.9 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. By comparison, heavy-weight PC makers HP and Dell saw a double-digit decline in semiconductor buying.

HP chip purchases in 2012 fell by nearly 13 percent while Dell – considering going private in the wake of tepid PC demand – cut chip purchases by more than 13 percent. In the same vein, laptop PC maker Toshiba slashed chip spending by around 17 percent.

Nokia, the cell phone pioneer which has watched Apple and Android consume the industry it built, cut its 2012 chip spending by more than a third, according to Gartner.

iPhone 5 keynote (A6 slide 001)

Aside from confirming the PC industry is shifting from desktops (HP and Dell) and laptops (Toshiba), towards tablets and smartphones, today’s chip purchases numbers seems to refute the chatter over Apple’s decline.

If Apple spent $21.4 billion in 2012 – nearly what HP and Dell combined spent on chips – does this really reflect a technology company that is declining?

More confirmation that the smartphone that Steve built is still selling likely comes after the end of today’s trading.