Samsung maintains lead in smartphone market

With the smartphone market rapidly maturing, Samsung is back alone in first place.

Around the world, more than one out of every five smartphones shipped last year was made by the Korean electronics giant, according to a report issued by technology research firm IDC. Although Apple cut into Samsung’s share in the fourth quarter, the iPhone maker’s cut of the market didn’t reach its heights of a year earlier when in its shipments virtually tied that of the Galaxy phone maker.

Meanwhile, Chinese maker Huawei placed third both in the quarter and for the year, seeing its annual shipments top 100 million for the first time, according to Strategy Analytics, another market research firm.

“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,” Melissa Chau, an IDC analyst, said in a statement. “Huawei is poised to be in a good position to hold onto a strong number 3 over the next year.

Global smartphone shipments grew 10.1 percent last year compared with 2014, but were only up 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter as compared with the same period a year earlier, according to IDC.

By contrast, shipments grew 27.6 percent in 2014 over 2013 levels and 28.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone, compared to the same period in 2013, IDC reported.

The growth rate in the latest quarter, which Strategy Analytics measured at 6.4 percent, was the slowest on record, Linda Sui, an analyst at the firm, noted.

“Smartphone growth is slowing due to increasing penetration maturity in major markets like China and consumer worries about the future of the world economy,” she said in a statement.

The fourth quarter helped salvage a poor year for Samsung. For the year, the company’s smartphone shipments only grew 2 percent over the levels it hit in 2014, reaching 324.8 million, or 22.7 percent of the market, from 318.2 million, or 24.4 percent of the market a year earlier, according to IDC.

But the company was only able to eke out a gain in shipments thanks to a standout fourth quarter. In the holiday period, Samsung shipped 85.6 million smartphones, which was up 14 percent from the same period a year earlier, when it shipped 75.1 million, IDC reported. The company’s market share for the period went from 19.9 percent share in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 21.4 percent in in the just-completed period.

Apple’s results were almost the exact inverse of Samsung’s. Boosted by its new, larger screened iPhone 6 models, the company posted a banner year in 2015. Its shipments grew 20 percent, going from 192.7 million in 2014 to 231.5 million last year, according to IDC. Its market share for the year went from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 16.2 percent last year.

But the iPhone maker’s results were weighed down by substandard results in the fourth quarter as its new iPhone 6s models largely failed to expand the market. In the just-completed period, Apple shipped 74.8 million iPhones, up just 0.4 percent from the 74.5 million it shipped in the 2014 holiday quarter, IDC reported. The company’s share fell from 19.7 percent of the market in the fourth quarter of 2014 to 18.7 percent in the just-completed period.

Huawei had reason to be much happier about its own results. Its shipments jumped 37 percent in the fourth quarter and 44 percent for the year — from year-earlier levels — to 32.4 million and 106.6 million, respectively, according to IDC. The company’s share of the market was 8.1 percent in the fourth quarter and 7.4 percent for the year, up from 6.3 percent and 5.7 percent for the fourth quarter and full year in 2014.

Lenovo and Xiaomi rounded out the top five smartphone makers. Both saw their sales and share increase over year-earlier levels, but Lenovo’s results came with an asterisk. Nominally, its sales for the quarter and year were up 43.6 percent and 24.5 percent, respectively, IDC reported. But if you add in the results of Motorola, which Lenovo acquired at the end of 2014, its results look downright shabby.

Including Motorola’s shipments, the combined company’s total shipments actually fell 18 percent for the quarter and 21 percent from the year. For all of 2015, Lenovo-Motorola shipped 73.9 million smartphones, down from 93.7 million the two companies combined shipments totaled in 2014, IDC said.

“The merger of Lenovo and Motorola has so far not been a success,” Sui, of Strategy Analytics, said.

File Photo: The Samsung Electronics logo is displayed on the glass door of its showroom in Seoul. (AFP PHOTO / FILES / JUNG YEON-JEJUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)


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