Smartphone shipments crossed 1.4 billion units in 2015, with China’s Huawei emerging as one of the biggest winners, according to research firm IDC. Overall, 2015 saw 1432.9 million units shipped, marking the highest year of shipments on record.
China’s Huawei was one of the surprise performers of 2015, based on IDC’s data.
“Usually the conversation in the smartphone market revolves around Samsung and Apple, but Huawei’s strong showing for both the quarter and the year, speak to how much it has grown as an international brand,” said Melissa Chau, Senior Research Manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
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She noted that despite the slowdown in China, Huawei as a brand “has successfully diversified worldwide, with almost half of its shipments going outside of China.” In fact, this diversification has helped Huawei reach the number three position in Q4 and overall at the end of 2015. In contrast, rival Xiaomi’s shipments remain restricted to China (over 90 per cent).
Huawei also saw the strongest year-on-year growth (37 per cent) among the top five players. The Chinese firm is now the fourth mobile vendor in history to ship over 100 million smartphones in a year. Only Nokia, Samsung and Apple have achieved this feat so far.
Xiaomi made it to the top five, but IDC says that the company is struggling to transition from low-range phone to the mid-range devices. The research firm says a bulk of Xiaomi’s shipments are still dependent on the budget Redmi series. Xiaomi recently missed its own forecast and said it shipped 70 million smartphones, sparking investor concerns over the startup.
While Samsung stood at the number one spot, its year-on-year growth for 2015 was only 2.1 per cent. IDC says that the challenge for Samsung comes at various levels; at the high-end it faces a threat from Apple; while in the low and mid-range Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE are posing trouble for the Korean giant.
Apple, saw its 2015 total market share rise to 16.2 per cent, up from 14.8 per cent in 2014. IDC pegs Apple’s strong performance to its growth in China (up 18 per cent with 50 per cent buyers being first-time iPhone owners) and rise in India (sales grew 76 per cent in Q4).
What is significant is that Apple managed to make gains, “despite an increase in average selling price (ASP) for an iPhone,” thus indicating its dominance of the high-end smartphone market, something that other players continue to struggle with.
“To combat Apple at the high-end, competing vendors will need to bring value to consumers to stay relevant in the market,” said Anthony Scarsella, Research Manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
Lenovo, which is the number four player in the list, is still trying to put its house in order, says IDC. According to the research firm, the lack of any revolutionary new models from the well-known Motorola brand, has also affected growth.
Overall, the IDC data marks the rise of Huawei as a strong new player in rankings, along with Apple and Samsung. Meanwhile, the world’s most valued start up Xiaomi appears to have gotten restricted as a budget player in China, an image that it will need to break in order to gain new ground in 2016.