Apple eclipses Samsung in fourth-quarter smartphone shipments

With so much recent focus on India from both market-leading smartphone vendors and research firms, we nearly forgot global shipment numbers for the final quarter of 2017, as well as the year as a whole, were never released to begin with.

"The shrinkage in global smartphone shipments was caused by a collapse in the huge China market, where demand fell 16 percent annually due to longer replacement rates, fewer operator subsidies and a general lack of wow models", said Linda Sui of Strategy Analytics. The prime reason for the quarterly decline is considered to be the drop in shipments specifically in developed markets, including China and the United States, where consumers didn't largely prefer to upgrade to the newest generation of high-priced flagship devices.

"The latest flock of posh flagships may have had consumers hitting the pause button in the holiday quarter", said Anthony Scarsella, an IDC research manager. "With ultra-high-end flagships all the rage in 2017, many of these new bezel-less wonders proved to be more of a luxury than a necessity among upgraders".

"Many high-profile companies offered their widest product portfolio ever in hopes of capturing a greater audience".

Samsung Electronics, Apple Inc., and China's Huawei Technologies and OPPO maintained their top four positions. For the first three quarters of a year ago, Samsung took the lead, but the latest smartphones from Apple - the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X - pushed it ahead.

IDC found that Samsung remained the overall leader in the worldwide smartphone market for 2017 despite losing out to Apple in the fourth quarter.

Apple finished second for the full year in 2017 shipping 215.8 million units, which represented an increase of 0.2% from the 215.4 million units shipped in 2016.

Apple led the market in the fourth quarter of 2017, shipping 77.3 million units, which was 1.2 percent lower than the previous year. Despite Cupertino's victory, Samsung remains the top smartphone vendor overall for 2017. The aggressive expansion of these brands in markets outside mainland China will be the key to growth as the home market reaches saturation levels in 2018 and Xiaomi emerged as the fastest growing brand (+56 percent), driven by strong sales in both China and India.

Vivo shipped 23.5 million units (-18 percent) in the fourth quarter. The 2017 results look much better for the Chinese giant as the Honor brand helped pushed sales both inside and outside of China.

IHS data shows Apple leading the smartphone market with 20% share, shipping 77.3 million units.

Apple so far has refrained from competing in the low-end market. For the year, Xiaomi came in fifth place, despite shipments rising to 92 million from 53.0 million and its market advancing to 6.3 percent from 3.6 percent.

Xiaomi doubled its market share to 7 percent from 3.3 percent, buoyed by its focus on growth outside China, with India and Russian Federation as two of its largest markets. Woody Oh, a director at Strategy Analytics, noted that the Chinese company is performing well across Asia and Europe, but is struggling to crack the valuable USA market due to limited distribution channels. It also appointed Lazada to be the official online store and partnered with Indosat to offer a telco bundling package, where consumers can get Xiaomi's smartphone for free by purchasing a data package for a one-year period.

  • Latoya Cobb