Global smartphone market witnesses first-ever full-year dip in 2018, says report

South Korean Samsung maintained its top global ranking with 20.4 per cent market share

A woman walks past an advertisement poster of a Samsung Electronics Co. products at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Samsung Electronics Co. has posted a near-30 percent drop in operating profit for the last quarter after seeing slowing global demand for its memory chips and smartphones. It still finished the year with record highs but expects a decline in earnings this year. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Smartphone industry, which fell globally by more than 5 per cent year-on-year in 2018, witnessed its first-ever full-year decline, says a latest report by Boston-based research firm Strategy Analytics.

Global smartphone shipments dropped from 1.51 billion in 2017 to 1.43 billion in 2018, according to the latest data that was released on Thursday.

“This was the first time ever in history the global smartphone market has declined on a full-year basis… it is a landmark event,” said Linda Sui, a director at Strategy Analytics.

South Korean company Samsung maintained the leading position with 20.4 per cent market share in 2018, ahead of Apple and Huawei, both of which account for 14.4 per cent each of the global market.

Huawei, which grew its shipments by 35 per cent sent a record 205.8 million smartphones across the globe in 2018, is all set to outshine Apple this year, according to analysts. It was just a whisker behind Apple, which shipped 206.3 million iPhones last year.

“Huawei is massively outgrowing the iPhone and we expect Huawei to overtake Apple on a full-year basis worldwide for the first time in 2019,” stated Woody Oh, a director at Strategy Analytics.

However, industry experts maintain that surpassing apple could be difficult for Huawei if it faces possible sanctions from the US in the similar way China's ZTE was cut-off from US suppliers' list. Currently, Huawei is facing mounting pressure over accusations from the US, Australia and Great Britain, among others, that its equipment is not secure and facilitates espionage, a charge the company denies.

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Weak Chinese economy is also a matter of concern for smartphone manufacturers this year.

Collective smartphone shipment growth of emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia was not enough to offset the declines in China, which was responsible for almost one-third of global smartphone shipments in 2018, Hong Kong-headquartered researcher Counterpoint noted.

“With China showing little or no sign of recovery due to various politico-economic factors, Chinese brands are looking to expand overseas,” said Shobhit Srivastava, research analyst at Counterpoint.

Increasing competition from both Chinese and global smartphone players will make it tougher for already suffering local brands.

“We have been talking about consolidation in the past and 2019 will bring just that - top brands will continue to eat market share of smaller and local players,” he noted.

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