Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi gain while global smartphone market declines

The global smartphone market is being as complex as ever. The first quarter of 2018 hasn’t exactly brought good news as shipments have declined compared with the same quarter in 2017. But within that, some brands have gained too.

According to numbers released by research firm International Data Corporation(IDC) as a part of the Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, 334.3 million smartphones were shipped globally in the quarter, as compared with 344.4 million units in the same period last year. This is a decline of 2.9%. One of the reasons for the declining global shipments is the sluggish Chinese smartphone market, which barely clocked 100 million units in the quarter—the lowest since the great fall in the third quarter of 2013. “Globally, as well as in China, a key bellwether, smartphone consumers are trading up to more premium devices, but there are no longer as many new smartphone converts, resulting in shipments dropping,” says Melissa Chau, associate research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.

Samsung sits at the top with 78.2 million units shipped, which gives it a market share of 23.4%, though that is a decline of 2.4% compared with the same quarter of 2017. Apple is in second place, with 52.2 million units shipped and a market share of 15.6%, which is an increase of 2.8% compared with Q1 2017. Huawei has taken third spot with 39.3 million phone shipments, giving it a market share of 11.8%, an increase of 13.8% over Q1 2017. The biggest gainer is Xiaomi, which saw the company’s shipments jump from 14.8 million units in Q1 2017 to 28 million units in Q1 2018—this gives it a market share of 8.4% but also an increase of 87.8%. Even though Oppo’s year-on-year numbers declined 7.5%, with 23.9 million units shipped and a market share of 7.1%, the company has held on to the fifth spot in the rankings.

Samsung managed to keep the decline to a minimum, because of the strong initial sales of the newest flagships, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+.

Apple, which had released its quarterly earnings numbers on Tuesday, suggests that the iPhone X delivered a 14% year-on-year iPhone revenue increase—completely proving wrong all the analysts who had claimed the iPhone X sales were weak all along, because of the high price tag. The iPhone X, which starts at Rs95,390 in India, is significantly more expensive than the iPhone 8 (Rs67,940 onwards) and the iPhone 8 Plus (Rs77,560 onwards), was the top-selling Apple device every week of the quarter, according to Tim Cook, CEO, Apple. The iPhone X is also the most expensive phone Apple has ever made.

As it turns out, Xiaomi’s growth has happened outside China, and IDC suggests that less than half of its shipments were domestic. The company has focused on India, for instance, with the “Make in India” campaign and the affordable Redmi 5A (Rs5,999 onwards) is the company’s best-selling phone in the country.

One of the reasons for the decline in shipments is that people are holding on to the phones they own, for longer. That is particularly true for the expensive flagship phones. “The abundance of ultra-high-end flagships with big price tags released over the past 12-18 months has most likely halted the upgrade cycle in the near term,” says Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

If consumers are genuinely unwilling to shell out more money for a new flagship phone that only brings incremental improvements to what they already own, maybe smartphone makers will have to reconsider their next line of flagship phones, Android phone makers such as Samsung. Huawei has perhaps made the first move perhaps, with the triple camera P20 Pro smartphone.livemint