World's most popular smartphone brands, Q1 2019: Huawei well clear of Apple

The Chinese company marched on but there could be problems ahead

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Huawei continued to close the gap on world leader Samsung in terms of global smartphone market share in the first quarter of 2019, new data shows.

Research company Gartner said that although global sales of smartphones declined 2.7 per cent in the first three months of the year, Huawei maintained its position as the second most popular vendor.

The two countries that sell the most smartphones - the US and China - saw sales decline by 15.8 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively, according to Gartner amid slowing innovation and rising prices.

Huawei continues to grow but trouble brews

Huawei achieved the highest year-on-year growth among the world’s top five brands with a 44.5 per cent uptick in sales.

“Huawei did particularly well in two of its biggest regions, Europe and Greater China, where its smartphone sales grew by 69% and 33%, respectively,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner.

The company's global market share has grown 49 per cent in the space of a year, and it now commands a 29.5 per cent market share in China.

Ramon Penas / The National

However, Huawei was recently blacklisted by US President Donald Trump, effectively banning American companies from doing business with the tech giant because it accuses Huawei of aiding Beijing in espionage.

The White House has since issued a three-month reprieve, but once the grace period is over, new Huawei smartphones will not have access to Android’s app store or operating system, or popular Google apps like YouTube, Google Maps and Chrome.

“Unavailability of Google apps and services on Huawei smartphones, if implemented, will upset Huawei’s international smartphone business which is almost half of its worldwide phone business," said Gartner's Mr Gupta.

"Not the least it brings apprehension among buyers, limiting Huawei’s growth in the near term.”

Samsung and Apple on the slide

The impact of the launch of Samsung's flagship S10 handset was only limited during the first quarter as it only started shipping late in the period.

Its smartphone sales were down 8.8 per cent year on year while market share fell from 20.5 per cent to 19.2 per cent.

It launched a refreshed A series and J series, plus a new M series, but it faced aggressive competition from Chinese manufacturers in the mid tier.

As for the future, Samsung's innovative Galaxy Fold device was due for release in April but was delayed after reports of broken review units. There's now talk of a late June or July release.

It was a similar story for Apple, with sales declining 17.6 per cent year on year, according to Gartner data, and market share slipping from 14.1 per cent to 11.9 per cent.

Mr Gupta says he sees "longer replacement cycles as users struggle to see enough value benefits to justify replacing existing iPhones".