Smartphone shipments hit lowest level in a decade with Samsung holding lead

The 8% fall in the third quarter marked a ninth consecutive quarter of declines

Samsung maintained its lead in the third quarter with about a fifth of total sales, despite mixed response for its new generation of foldables, the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Flip5, which is shown above. AFP
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Global smartphone shipments fell to their lowest third-quarter levels in a decade as the recovery in consumer demand was slower than expected.

The 8 per cent annual drop in the three months ended in September marked a ninth quarter of declines in a row, despite a 2 per cent quarter-on-quarter increase, Counterpoint Research said in its quarterly update.

The top five original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) all reported annual declines, with Samsung Electronics and Apple, the two biggest players, posting drops of 13 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.

Seoul-based Samsung maintained its lead with about a fifth of total sales in the three-month period, despite mixed response for its new generation of foldables, the Galaxy Z Fold5 and Flip5, the Hong Kong-based firm said.

While the Flip5 has been reported to be outselling the Fold 5 by nearly twice as much, Samsung's A series smartphones continued to be market leaders in the mid-price categories, it said.

Apple, meanwhile, was in second place with a 16 per cent market share, despite the limited availability of the recently-launched but well-received iPhone 15 series, the report said.

Apple's yearly decline, however, was the lowest among the top five OEMs.

“The market’s quarter-on-quarter growth, especially the positive performance in September despite one full week less of sales of the new iPhones, is likely to be a sign of positive news ahead,” Counterpoint said.

Demand for smartphones, the most popular and most important communication tool, have been tepid in recent years as consumers have cut down on spending and increasingly postponed upgrading their devices.

The market has also been roiled by a variety of factors, including uncertain economic conditions, high inflation and supply chain issues.

Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo rounded out the top five with market shares of 12 per cent, 10 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively. They logged annual declines of 15 per cent, 10 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

The three brands concentrated in boosting their footprints in markets such as China and India, the two most populous countries with big technology industries, while continuing to slow down expansion efforts in other overseas markets, the study said.

Huawei Technologies, its former subsidiary Honor and China's Transsion Group gained market share and were among the only companies to post annual growth in the third quarter, Counterpoint said.

Huawei was driven by the launch of its Mate 60 series in China, while Honor was boosted by strong performance in overseas markets.

Transsion, the owner of the Tecno, Infinix and Itel brands popular in Africa, continued to expand while also benefiting from the recovery in the Middle East and Africa market.

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Regionally, MEA was the only region to record annual growth in the third quarter, as macroeconomic indicators improved, the study showed. Most developed markets, such as North America, Western Europe and South Korea, posted steep declines.

“However, we expect most developed markets to grow in the fourth quarter largely due to the delayed effect of the iPhone launch,” it said.

Counterpoint has also repeated its expectations that the smartphone market will post a full-year decline in 2023 and reach its lowest level in a decade.

This will be largely a result of a shift in device replacement patterns, particularly in developed markets, it said.

“Notably, the recovery of emerging markets before the global market and the growth of brands outside of the top five indicate the shifting dynamics and opportunities in the global smartphone market,” Counterpoint said.

Updated: October 21, 2023, 7:16 AM