Apple managed to sell 74.83 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2014 against a close 73.03 million by rival Samsung to sit at the very top as having sold the highest number of smartphones in that period according to data from respected research firm Gartner. Over a similar period in 2013, roles were reversed and it was Samsung at the top with Apple a distant second at 83.3 million smartphones against 50.2 million iPhones. Samsung’s sales figures for the quarter dropped by close to 12% while Apple’s went up by 49%! Yes, there were very many people holding out on buying any smartphone in Q3 as they waited for Apple’s latest iPhone to go on sale the following quarter.
What changed? The iPhone 6 happened. With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple moved to woo its fanbase that wanted bigger smartphones. That had been the biggest selling point for Samsung and other Android OEMs and Apple finally offering something to compete with their large smartphone offerings dealt a big blow to their short-lived dominance. That and Samsung presenting a weaker competitor to the iPhone in the Galaxy S5 earlier in the year. The launch of the Galaxy Note 4 which started showing up in the market at the start of Q4 could not help the Korean giant ward off the challenge by Cupertino and forced the company to rethink its smartphone designs. Now Samsung’s new devices are clad in metal and directly compete with Apple’s iPhones at all levels. Form and function.
With Apple dominating the upper end of the smartphone market segment, it was not rosy at the mid-range and entry-level as Chinese OEMs Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei put up a good show and ate into the sales of Samsung’s budget Galaxy devices in key Asian markets like China. Samsung has even had to launch a Tizen-based low cost smartphone in several Asian markets like India and Bangladesh so as to be able to effectively compete at that level while still turning in a profit. The indication so far is that the Samsung Z1 is doing well but can it stand the onslaught of Xiaomi’s well-specced but fairly-priced Mi phones? OnePlus is setting shop in India while Lenovo, ZTE and other homegrown companies keep pushing hard on their continental turf. Huawei already has its eyes set on the US market this year and if things go its way, the big two will face a serious challenge in their key North American market.
A total of 367.5 million smartphones were sold in Q4 and the big two, Apple and Samsung, account for 40% of all smartphones sold in that period adding to the combined 1.2 billion smartphones sold last year. Samsung generally leads as the smartphone vendor that sold most devices in the whole year (307 million) even though the slip up in Q4 led to Apple having its best Q4 sales figures ever. Android’s domination of the smartphone market continued with over 1 billion of the 1.2 billion (80.7%) smartphones sold last year running on the Google-backed mobile platform. iOS came in at a distant second selling 191 million units (15.4%). Microsoft’s Windows and Blackberry continued their weak run of form by accounting for just 2.8% and 0.6% of all smartphones sold last year respectively.