Global smartphone shipments fell for the sixth consecutive quarter, declining 6.8 per cent to hit a near five-year low at 313.9 million units in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019, research firm Canalys said in a report.
Samsung continued to remain the leading vendor, even as its shipments slipped 10 per cent to 71.5 million units. On the other hand, Huawei was the largest beneficiary with a sharp 50.2 per cent rise to 59.1 million units during the quarter, the report said.
However, Apple, which has often bucked the industry trend, was the worst hit with its global shipments declining 23.2 per cent to 40.2 million units.
Canalys’ Senior Analyst Ben Stanton said that Apple’s second largest market, China proved tough. Shipments fell in the US as trade-in initiatives failed to offset longer consumer refresh cycles.
Stanton further added that in markets such as Europe, Apple is increasingly using discounts to prop up demand, but this is causing additional complexity for distributors, and blurring the value proposition of these ‘premium’ devices in the eyes of consumers.
“Apple was also hit by a tough year-on-year compare against Q1 2018, when demand for the new iPhone X spilled over from Q4 2017. However, iPhone did show signs of recovery towards the back-end of the quarter, and this momentum will carry into Q2.” he said in the report.
The smartphone market continues to consolidate as it shrinks, with the top five vendors’ combined worldwide market share rising from 66.8 per cent to 72 per cent over the past year.
Huawei has earlier said that it aims to overtake Samsung as the world’s leading smartphone vendor by 2020. However, to do this, it needs to do at least another 10 million shipments in a quarter, Canalys Analyst Mo Jia said.
“It is not possible to take this many new customers in a single market, such as China, nor is it possible to focus only on growth markets, such as Russia and Indonesia. Huawei needs to battle on all fronts, including saturated and mature markets, such as Western Europe.” he said.
“Huawei’s foldable phone Mate X may be making headlines, but it will not actually be significant in this battle. Instead, it hinges on Huawei’s ability to take customers in the low-to-midrange price bands (handsets priced between US$100 to US$300). These models are Huawei’s core strength, and there are between 130 and 140 million devices shipped in this price range by its competitors every quarter around the world, excluding the US.” Jia said.
However, Canalys Research Analyst Shengtao Jin feels that it may not be easy for Huawei as Samsung is fighting back with a revamped Galaxy A series and will roll out its new low-cost Galaxy M series to more markets in 2019. It is set to defend its position more aggressively, with an explicit focus on hardware.
Other Chinese rivals, such as Xiaomi and Oppo, are starting to emulate Huawei’s success in overseas markets. Xiaomi is currently the dominant player in India, while both Xiaomi and Oppo are attempting to dislodge Huawei from network operator portfolios in Europe.