Apple edged out Samsung to take the phone sales top spot for the fourth quarter of 2016. The real winners are Chinese: Huawei, Oppo and BBK.
Although Apple and Samsung get the most attention, the rise of the Chinese phone makers is the big story of the last 18 months.
Oppo was started by BBK, but runs as an independent company. The company began operating in New Zealand late last year. Its best-known phones have similar specification to Android handsets costing twice as much.
The two brands have come from almost nowhere to challenge some of the world’s biggest companies. Both companies are secretive about financials and don’t reveal profit margins. They are probably low even by non-Apple phone industry standards.
Phone sales up in 2016
Gartner reports total sales for the quarter were up by a healthy seven percent. Phone makers sold 432 million units in the full 2016 year for a five percent year-on-year rise. That’s a solid result, but behind the glory days of fast growing phone sales.
Samsung sales fell for the second quarter in a row. Its share for the year ended 2.9 percent down on 2015. This was due to the company dropping the troubled Galaxy Note 7 which left a hole in Samsung’s range.
Tough times at Samsung meant Apple moved to top place by the slimmest of margins. The company sold a shade over 77 million iPhones in the quarter while Samsung sold a fraction under 77 million units.
The companies were on 17.9 and 17.8 percent market share for the quarter.
Samsung was top for the full year with a 20.5 percent market share, well ahead of Apple on 14.4 percent.
Chinese phone makers growing share
The big news is the next tier where three Chinese phone makers boosted their market share to a collective 21.3 percent. Huawei lead the charge selling almost 41 million phones. It had a 9.5 percent market share. That’s up from eight percent a year earlier. The company sells premium and lower cost models.
Oppo was next on 6.2 percent a big jump up from the 3.2 percent a year earlier. BBK Communication also doubled its share from 2.8 to 5.6 percent. The others category fell from 47.6 to 43.1 percent.
Worldwide smartphone sales to users by operating system in 4Q16 (thousands of units)
4Q16 Market Share (%)
4Q15 Market Share (%)
Source: Gartner (February 2017)