The global smartphone market’s continuing on a slow but steady uptick. That’s according to research firm Gartner, which today published a report showing that in Q3 2018, handset sales grew 1.4 percent to reach 389 million units.
Shipments were led by Chinese brands Huawei and Xiaomi, the former of which saw demand for its devices grow 43 percent. In fact, according to Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, smartphone sales to end users would have declined by 5.2 percent if the vendor’s list hadn’t included Huawei and Xiaomi.
Samsung fared rather poorly, on the other hand, experiencing the largest year-over-year decline since Gartner began tracking smartphone sales globally. Shipments of the Galaxy S9, S9+ and Note 9 and other flagship handsets declined 14 percent in Q3 2018, and the company’s mid-tier lineup faced stiff competition in developing markets from Chinese brands and others.
Still, Samsung maintained pole position in the third quarter, with an estimated 18.9 percent of the overall market (down from 22.3 percent in Q3 2017). Huawei came in second with a 13.4 percent share (down from 9.5 percent), followed by Apple with 11.8 percent, Xiaomi with 8.5 percent (from 7 percent), Oppo with 7.9 percent (from 7.7 percent), and others, like Motorola, Nokia, and TCL, with 39.6 percent (from 41.6 percent).
“Led by low-price smartphones, enhanced camera features, and high-quality resolution displays, top Chinese mobile phone manufacturers boosted their sales across emerging markets in the third quarter of 2018,” Gupta said. “The gap between Samsung and Huawei continues to shrink, as Huawei expands aggressively by investing in branding and distribution in the emerging markets of the Middle East, Asia/Pacific, and Africa. Huawei is, for example, aggressively positioning its affordable Honor series smartphones to drive the shift from feature phones to smartphones in those markets.”
Meanwhile, Apple’s performance was flat in Q3 2018, with an estimated 0.7 percent growth.
“Apple’s iPhones are facing a saturated premium smartphone market, with slowing growth rates and increased competition in China,” Gupta said. “Apple’s new flagship smartphones, announced in September, will be key to defining Apple’s overall iPhone unit sales in 2018.”
Gartner’s forecast jibes with a DigiTimes report earlier this month claiming that Apple has ordered “a second wave of order reduction in the wake of weaker-than-expected sales for its new iPhones,” forcing revenue shortfalls and layoffs at suppliers. That news — along with concerns over an impending import tax that could affect Chinese-assembled Apple products — sent the company’s stock tumbling, contributing to a 20 percent decline in its market capitalization from the record-breaking $1 trillion it reached in August.
According to Gartner, new technologies — such as 5G and foldable phones — will spur the next wave of market demand. The firm expects that 5G mobile device sales alone will total 65 million units in 2020.