Apple Beats Samsung to Top of the Smartphone Market

Apple Is Number One for the First Time Ever, as Well as Being the Only Top Three Company to Show Growth, Says Nabila Popal, International Data Corporation

For the first time ever, Apple is at the top of the smartphone market according to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. The global technology giant has beaten Samsung off the top spot, despite the South Korean company having held the position since 2010. 

"The overall shift in ranking at the top of the market further highlights the intensity of competition within the smartphone market," said Ryan Reith, group vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers

Having spent over 18 years at the IDC throughout his career, Reith brings years of experience analysing device market trends, forecasting future technologies, and vendor analysis to the industry. He leads research focused on the quantitative aspects of the mobile device industry, including market sizing, forecasting, vendor market share analysis, and technology trends. His current responsibilities include engaging with mobile device OEMs, supply chain, distributors, and the financial industry to discuss market trends and forward looking analysis.

"Apple certainly played a part in Samsung's drop in rank, but the overall Android space is diversifying within itself. Huawei is back and making inroads quickly within China, Brands like OnePlus, Honor, Google, and others are launching very competitive devices in the lower price range of the high end. And foldables and increased discussions around AI capabilities on the smartphone are gaining traction. Overall, the smartphone space is headed towards a very interesting time."

The changing smartphone market

High market shares for Apple have driven the change, despite global smartphone shipments declining 3.2% year over year to 1.17 billion units in 2023 according to preliminary data from the IDC. 

Thanks to macroeconomic challenges and elevated inventory early in the year, 2023 saw the lowest full-year volume in a decade. However, expected recover for 2024 was solidified by growth in the second half of the year, with The fourth quarter (4Q23) seeing 8.5% year-over-year growth and 326.1 million shipments, higher than the forecast of 7.3% growth.

"While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple," said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team. 

Popal has over 20 years experience in consulting, research and data analytics working in the United States and Dubai, having worked at the IDC over over a decade. In her role as research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team she leads the global production and research quality of various consumer device trackers, responsible for global management of the tracker operations, global initiatives and client management. 

"Not only is Apple the only player in the Top 3 to show positive growth annually, but also bags the number 1 spot annually for the first time ever. All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market. Apple's ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans."

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