Chinese smartphone maker Huawei registered the single biggest gains in the smartphone market last year. Data released by research firm IDC shows that Huawei, which shipped over 100 million smartphones last year as it opened a wide gap over compatriots Lenovo and Xiaomi who are fourth and fifth respectively in the pecking order. Traditional market leaders Samsung and Apple are still first and second respectively in what was a mixed year for them.
Apple, which reported that it now has over 1 billion devices (Macs and iOS devices combined) in the market, expects to register the slowest growth in sales of its iPhones since they were launched back in 2007 in its next financial quarter. According to IDC data, the company shipped a record 74.8 million iPhone units in Q4 2015, a marginal 0.3% increase over a similar period in 2014.
Korean conglomerate Samsung, on the other hand, shipped 85.6 million smartphones in the final quarter of 2015 to maintain its status as the top smartphone maker in the world with 21% market share. That brings the total number of smartphones shipped by Samsung in 2015 to a staggering 325 million units, an increase of over 2% from the 318 million units it shipped the previous year. By comparison, Apple was able to raise the number of iPhones it shipped by over 20% to 232 million units from the 193 million units it shipped in 2014.
Huawei registered a strong year over year growth of 37%, the highest among the top 5 smartphone vendors in the world (Lenovo’s figures slump when put together with those of Motorola, now a part of the company’s mobile division). Huawei shipped 32 million smartphones in Q4 2015 to bring its overall 2015 tally to 107 million capping a a very successful year for the Chinese company. With a huge focus on its mid-range Honor brand in Europe and other overseas markets and a re-entry into the critical North American market, Huawei is expected to keep its third place position this year and gain immensely from any slip-ups by the top two.
The top two, Apple and Samsung will have to re-strategize in order to keep their shipment volumes up and sales figures impressive. A radical iPhone redesign could bring back the masses while analysts also believe another wow Apple product will be enough to keep everyone happy. Will the second generation Apple Watch do exactly that? Will the new large iPad Pro prove to be a success when tablet sales are still on a free fall? Apple’s focus is also likely to turn to new markets. The company’s smartphone sales were up by 76% in India, which is seen as the next battleground now that China, its current cash cow, has joined Europe and North America in the saturation charts.
No one has experienced the contraction of the Chinese market more than homegrown startup Xiaomi whose three-year meteoric rise to the top was stopped in its track as its growth slowed for the first time. Xiaomi’s customer base is 90% Chinese and it has only recently started expanding to markets outside its Asian home turf. Brazil, India and several African countries starting with South Africa are now on its radar.
In all, 1.4 billion smartphones were shipped last year, a growth of 10% from the 1.3 billion units shipped in 2014.