Smartphone sales grew at a moderate seven per cent globally in the fourth quarter of 2016 and stood at a total of 432 million units, according to research firm Gartner. The numbers also showed Apple stood as the number one smartphone vendor beating Samsung. Overall, the year 2016 saw smartphone sales at 1.5 billion units,,which was an increase of five per cent from 2015.
Apple’s victory came after eight quarters, but as data shows, it is a close fight between the top two players. The difference in units sold between Apple and Samsung was only 256,000 units.
“The last time Apple was in the leading position was in the fourth quarter of 2014, when its sales were driven by its first ever large-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus,” Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner said in a press statement. “This time it achieved it thanks to strong sales of its flagship phones — the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus; it also benefited from the weakened demand for Samsung’s smartphones in mature markets such as North America and Western Europe, and in some mature markets in Asia such as Australia and South Korea.”
For Samsung this was the second consecutive quarter in which it saw quarterly smartphone sales drop.
“Samsung’s smartphone sales started to drop in the third quarter of 2016, and the decision to discontinue the Galaxy Note 7 slowed down sales of its smartphone portfolio in the fourth quarter,” added Gupta.
“The withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 left a gap in its large-screen phone range,” he pointed.
Samsung also faces increasing competition in the mid-range and entry-level smartphone segments from Chinese players like Huawei, Oppo, BBK and Gionee. Gartner says all of these players saw their sales grow each quarter.
“Samsung needs to successfully launch the next Galaxy flagship phone in order to continue the momentum Galaxy S7 generated, and win back lost customers by launching a new large screen and stylus-equipped smartphone,” said Gupta.
Unsurprisingly, Chinese players dominated the next three positions in the list of top smartphone vendors. Huawei was number three with over 40 million shipments, Oppo at number four with more than 26 million shipments, and BBK Equipment at number five with over 24 million shipments.
The dominance of the Chinese players is evident given that Huawei, Oppo and BBK accounted for 21.3 per cent of all smartphones sold to end users globally in the quarter.
On Huawei’s growth, Gupta said, “Huawei is poised to reduce the gap further with the No. 2 global smartphone vendor…Mate 9 with Alexa will start shipping into the US in the first quarter of 2017.” According to Gartner, Huawei’s new premium smartphones have helped it reduce the gap with Samsung.
Oppo is at the number one position in China, and thanks to its great selfie cameras, and fast-charging technology, continues to see a boost in sales across the world. In fact, in India too, OPPO has emerged in the top five list of smartphone vendors, showed numbers from another research firm IDC.
Finally, BBK’s strong performance in India, where its sales grew by 278 percent allowed it to emerge as the number five smartphone vendor worldwide. BBK equipment is technically the parent company of OPPO, vivo, and OnePlus.
According to Gartner, 2017 will belong to the Chinese players like Oppo, BBK, Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi and Lenovo, which have aggressive expansion plans for beyond China. Overall in the smartphone operating system market, Android remains on top with 82 per cent of the total market.
“The entry of Google’s Pixel phone has made the premium Android smartphone offering more competitive, while the re-entry of HMD (Nokia) in the basic (midtier) smartphone category, is set to further increase the competition in emerging markets,” said Gupta.