Samsung keeps crown in ‘challenging’ global Q1 smartphone market

Samsung keeps crown in ‘challenging’ global Q1 smartphone market

Shipments down in the entire smartphone market by 13 per cent, year-on-year.

Credit: Photo 70997890 © J P |

Samsung has retained its crown in the global smartphone market amidst an ongoing “challenging” landscape that had all but one major vendor bleeding shipments.

This is according to research firm Canalys, which claims Samsung shipped 60.3 million units during the first three months of 2023, down 18 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“Samsung’s performance shows early signs of recovery after a tough end to 2022,” said Runar Bjørhovde, Canalys analyst.

“The rebound is particularly connected to product launches, which drove an increase in sell-in volume. Still, Samsung will have to navigate through a difficult landscape going forward, particularly as entry-level device inventory remains high.

“Declining profits from its semiconductor memory business will also trigger a more conservative marketing spend overall.”

Samsung’s top spot comes amid the whole market declining 13 per cent in terms of shipments.

Defying the whole market's decline was Apple, with it narrowly beaten for first and landing in second with 58 million shipments, representing growth of 3 per cent. Bjørhovde labelled Apple's performance as “robust”, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

“Here, Apple’s sustained investments into offline channels enabled it to attract a burgeoning middle-class, which places high value on the in-store purchasing experience,” he said.

Meanwhile, Xiaomi was in third with 30.5 million units, dropping 22 per cent, OPPO in fourth with 26.6 million units, down 8 per cent, and vivo in fifth with 20.9 million units, declining 17 per cent.

Looking at the market as a whole, Canalys research analyst Lucas Zhong said the mid-range price segment has shown signs of recovery following huge declines a year prior.

“Vendors are leveraging trade-down opportunities with strong value-for-money offers for consumers with limited spending power. This is supported by decreasing component prices and vendors accelerating spec upgrades for mid-range product portfolios,” he said.

“However, mid-range demand in 2023 will remain limited due to the macroeconomic challenges and missing differentiators within this price band. Furthermore, with supply inventories starting to clear, component prices may quickly start to increase, making great specs for lower prices less sustainable in the long-term.” 

As such, Zhong said that “the market remains challenging”, with the analyst firm sticking to its forecast of marginal declines for 2023 – a view that has also been shared by other research and analysis companies such as IDC.

“Shipments will stabilse around the levels from 2022 as we move into the middle of 2023,” Zhong said. “Decline rates will start to improve soon, although this is more connected to the stark contrast between 2022 and 2023 shrinking.

“Canalys expects the smartphone market will gain momentum in the second half of the year as channel inventories reach healthier levels. Vendors are cautiously approaching the market with profitability targets, lean operations and inventory clearing as top priorities.

“However, for vendors with long-term ambitions and capital to invest, challenging market conditions provide an excellent environment to capture market share, showcase commitment and intentions to new markets, and establish close partnerships with the channel.” 

Samsung has previously held onto the top place in the global smartphone vendor leaderboards in recent years, with it keeping the spot back in the third quarter of 2022. Back then, Canalys said the overall market experienced its worst Q3 for sell-in shipments since 2014.

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