Low-cost devices win as Samsung reasserts global smartphone lead over Apple

Low-cost devices win as Samsung reasserts global smartphone lead over Apple

“The challenge made by Apple for the top spot in the fourth quarter returned to a clear lead for Samsung in the first quarter."

The worldwide smartphone market kicked off the year with an expected post-holiday dispersion in shipment volumes compared to the previous quarter's unprecedented results.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 336.5 million smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2015 (1Q15), up 16.7 percent from the 288.5 million units in 1Q14 but down by -10.9 percent from the 377.5 million units shipped in 4Q14.

In the overall mobile phone market (smartphones plus feature phones), vendors shipped 458.9 million units worldwide, down a mere -0.1 percent from the 459.3 million units shipped in 1Q14.

“The challenge made by Apple for the top spot in the fourth quarter returned to a clear lead for Samsung in the first quarter, despite the soaring global demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus," says Anthony Scarsella, Research Manager, IDC Mobile Phone team.

According to IDC, Samsung's shipments, given that the S6 was not launched into the market for the full quarter, were driven by large volumes into emerging markets and steady demand for its midrange and lower-priced smartphones.

“Apple's strong follow-up quarter was in itself surprising, as it enjoyed success thanks to consumers' insatiable appetite for larger screened iOS devices in many key markets, including Greater China,” adds Melissa Chau, Senior Research Manager, IDC Mobile Device Tracker team.

“China's overall year-on-year market growth in the quarter flattened significantly, however, so aside from Apple, most vendors will be looking outside of China's borders for the next big push.

“Through the rest of this year, we expect all vendors to be squeezed on falling ASPs, while at the high end it will be a battle between the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge from Samsung versus continued demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.”

Read more: Lenovo expands product recall for ThinkPad laptop batteries

Smartphone Vendor Highlights:

Samsung remained the overall market leader thanks to stable demand for its Galaxy S series flagship smartphones overall, as well as increased shipments of lower-end models, particularly to regions like Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Samsung's improved streamlined portfolio of devices, including the new premium inspired A-series, proved successful in many mid-tier markets that were typically dominated by local brands.

Samsung's redefined flagship (the Galaxy S 6 and S 6 edge) shipped late in the quarter giving the Korean giant a later push in terms of volume. Samsung will utilise the two new models to combat Apple as well as to help recover current declining profits heading into the next quarter.

Apple continued to find success with larger screened iPhones, which produced its strongest second quarter ever with 61.2 million units shipped.

Much of the success this quarter came out of Greater China as rapid 4G adoption, Apple retail expansion, and an increased appetite for premium devices elevated the brand to new levels.

Overall, the iPhone grew 40 percent year over year and a remarkable 63 percent in emerging markets.

Lenovo is once again in the top three, proving that its Motorola acquisition is paying off nicely.

Lenovo has strategically positioned both brands and the coinciding models in the proper markets to maximise brand awareness and global reach. Lenovo also unveiled new premium-built handsets at CES with the P90, Vibe X2 pro, and Vibe Shot proving that it is not just focused on the low-end.

Huawei remained in the number four position with a continued push on premium devices from its P-Series and Honor portfolios.

Huawei's mid-range and high-end models accounted for a third of its smartphone shipments in the first quarter, up from just 5 percent a year ago. Huawei's Y-series sold briskly both inside and outside of China as a valuable low-cost option in many markets.

LG regained the number five spot worldwide from Xiaomi as it once again bet big on entry-level 4G enabled devices as well as focusing on the mid-tier in North America.

Its L-series and F-series portfolio succeeded in both emerging and developed markets. LG also shipped the innovative curved G Flex 2, which it showed off at CES earlier in the year. LG's diverse portfolio, with models ranging in prices, features, and design, enabled the brand to overtake Xiaomi's more limited geographic presence to hit the top five.

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