Apple overtakes Samsung to become world's leading smartphone maker

This is the first time the South Korean company has lost the top spot since 2010

Apple's iPhone accounted for a fifth of the global market with close to 235 million shipments last year, research firm IDC said. EPA
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Apple's iPhone toppled Samsung's devices to become the world's best-selling smartphone in 2023, marking the first time that the South Korean company has lost the top spot since 2010.

Apple recorded 234.6 million iPhone shipments in 2023, accounting for 20.1 per cent of the global market, with an annual growth of 3.7 per cent, according to the latest preliminary data from research company International Data Corporation.

Samsung's smartphone shipments slumped 13.6 per cent to 226.6 million, a market share of 19.4 per cent, IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker showed.

China's Xiaomi was third with 145.9 million shipments, accounting for a market share of 12.5 per cent, according to the Massachusetts-based IDC.

Rounding off the top five are Chinese smartphone makers Oppo and Transsion.

“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.

“All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market.

“Apple’s continuing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20 per cent of the market, fuelled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans.”

The power shift at the top of the largest consumer electronics market was driven by an all-time high market share for Apple and bagging the No 1 spot annually for the first time. Apple is the only global player among the top three to register positive growth.

Apple's dethroning of Samsung in the smartphones market over a full year indicates that the Cupertino-based company is coping better than its competitors with an industrywide decline over the past two years.

Global smartphone shipments declined 3.2 per cent year-on-year to 1.17 billion units in 2023, according to the IDC data. This marks the lowest full-year volume in a decade, driven largely by macroeconomic challenges and elevated inventory early in the year, it said.

However, growth in the second half of last year has cemented the expected recovery for 2024.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, worldwide smartphone shipments grew 8.5 per cent year-on-year to 326.1 million units, higher than the 7.3 per cent growth forecast.

“Overall, the global smartphone market remains challenged, but momentum is moving quickly towards recovery,” IDC said.

The upturn in 2024 is fuelled by the growth of emerging market economies, a resurgence in consumer spending, an increase in average selling prices, and the swift integration of generative artificial intelligence devices, industry analysts said.

They said the recovery will be evident in two main ways. First, there is a chance for the markets that faced supply shortages due to coronavirus-induced import controls to bounce back.

Second, companies have overcome the difficulties of having too much inventory, which was a problem in the past one to two years. Now, they are back to their regular schedules for releasing products and shipping them.

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

While Apple certainly played a part in Samsung's drop in rank, the overall Android market is diversifying within itself, he said.

Apple is also facing renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market.

“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,” Mr Reith said.

“Overall, the smartphone space is headed towards a very interesting time.”

Apple has also surpassed Amazon to claim the title of the world's most valuable brand, worth $516.6 billion, according to a report released on Wednesday by consultancy Brand Finance.

Apple achieved a 74 per cent yearly increase in brand value, thanks to its strategy of finding new markets, expanding its ecosystem and encouraging upgrades to higher-value iPhones, the report said.

Updated: January 17, 2024, 6:54 AM