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Bill Bennett


Samsung leads in phone sales but Apple, Huawei still winners

Huawei MWC

Phone sales are flat. The industry shipped a total of 343.3 million smartphones worldwide in the second quarter of 2016. That figure is up just 0.3 percent on the 342.4 million units in the same quarter last year.

Top-selling phone brand Samsung turned in a solid performance with a year-on-year growth of 5.5 percent. In a flat market that means increased market share.

Third-placed Huawei did even better showing 8.4 percent growth year-on-year. On the surface, second-placed Apple had a bad year with a 15 percent drop in units.

Yet year-on-year figures can be misleading when read in isolation. When you look at the last two years, it’s clear the three top brands are pulling away from the pack when it comes to global markets.

For now the fourth and fifth brands on IDC’s list are, for the most part, restricted to China so are less important in a global context.

Huawei biggest winner

Huawei is the biggest winner. Its sales grew 48.1 percent in the year to Q2 2015. Over the past two years Huawei’s phone sales are up 59 percent. In just 24 months the Chinese company came from well behind Samsung and Apple to cement a place in the top three.

Over one year Apple looks in bad shape. Go back two and a different picture emerges. Apple’s  two-year performance is not as stellar at Huawei’s, but growth over the two year period is a respectable 15 percent. That’s a little ahead of the market which collectively grew about 13 percent over the same period.

Apple’s poor 2016 showing has a lot to do with a strong 2015 performance  where pent up demand for the iPhone 6 models set a high bar that could not be repeated. In the second quarter of 2015, the brand was up 34.9 percent on the same period in the previous year.

Samsung the giant

Samsung remains the leader by a long margin. It sells almost twice as many phones as Apple. Over the two-year period Samsung sales climbed by almost three percent. That’s behind the total phone sales growth and represents a loss of market share.

The way phone sales figures are often reported in the technology press hides the fact that the global phone hardware market is about these three companies. Every other phone maker is an also ran.

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q2 2016 Preliminary Data (Units in Millions)
Vendor 2Q16 Shipment Volumes 2Q16 Market Share 2Q15 Shipment Volumes 2Q15 Market Share Year-Over-Year Change
Samsung 77.0 22.4% 73.0 21.3% 5.5%
Apple 40.4 11.8% 47.5 13.9% -15.0%
Huawei 32.1 9.4% 29.6 8.6% 8.4%
OPPO 22.6 6.6% 9.6 2.8% 136.6%
vivo 16.4 4.8% 9.1 2.7% 80.2%
Others 154.8 45.1% 173.6 50.7% -10.8%
Total 343.3 100.0% 342.4 100.0% 0.3%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, July 28, 2016

There’s something else that is often overlooked. The focus on phone hardware sales by brand misses the point that Apple and Google are the real dominant players in phones and tablets. Samsung and Huawei make hardware, but that’s where their involvement ends. They don’t command customer loyalty in the way Android and iOS do.

The relative numbers for iOS and Android ebb and flow. Android is bigger than iOS, but perhaps not by as much as some people assume.

A back-of-an-envelope calculation puts the number of iOS devices in use around the world at three-quarters of a billion. In January Apple announced it had a total of a billion activated devices. Apple’s number includes Macs, Watches and iPods, which squares with the estimate of three-quarters of a billion iOS devices.

There are at least twice as many Android devices connected to Google Services. The number is more than 1.5 billion, but less than two billion. There are about another half a billion Android devices in China that are not connected to Google services. No other phone operating system registers more than a rounding error in comparison.



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