Why it matters: The smartphone industry remained stagnant during Q4 2018 and across the whole of last year, but it was a good period for Chinese firms. Both Apple and Samsung saw their respective market shares eroded by Huawei, Xiaomi, and OPPO.
Data from research firm Gartner showed that across the whole of 2018, Samsung’s market share fell from 20.9 percent to 19 percent, while Apple went from 14 percent to 13.4 percent. Gartner says iPhone sales were down 2.7 percent to just over 209 million units, mostly due to the difficulties Apple is facing in China’s market.
While it was bad news for the top two, their Chinese rivals all saw year-over-year improvements. Despite its ongoing battle with the US government, Huawei gained the largest increase—3.2 percent. Overall, smartphone sales grew just 1.2 percent during the entire year.
It was a similar story for the fourth quarter, which saw Apple’s worst quarterly decline since Q1 2016. The 64.5 million units it shifted represented a drop of 11.8 percent YoY, making it “the worst performer of the quarter among the top five global smartphone vendors.” Samsung’s share was down by almost a full percentage point in Q4, while Huawei and OPPO experienced YoY jumps. Total sales for the quarter, meanwhile, were at 408.3 million units, a yearly increase of just 0.1 percent.
Gartner's senior research director, Anshul Gupta, said expensive, high-end phones that come with few upgrades over their predecessors are deterring users from buying the latest models. Additionally, features once reserved for flagships continue to make their way into cheaper, mid-range models.
"Although Samsung is strengthening its smartphone offering at the mid-tier, it continues to face growing competition from Chinese brands that are expanding into more markets," added Gupta.
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