Global smartphone shipments grew by 1% in Q3 2019, representing the first year-on-year (YoY) market increase in two years.
New figures from Canalys indicate that 352 million smartphones shipped last quarter, compared to 349 million in the corresponding period last year. The growth, while modest, bucks a trend dating back to 2017 that ushered in the smartphone industry’s first ever sales decline.
Digging down into the numbers, Samsung remains at the top of the pack, with a 2 percentage point market share increase compared to Q3 2018. However, China’s Huawei stole considerable ground from its South Korean rival, growing from 14.9% market share to 19% — just 3.4% behind Samsung.
Elsewhere, Apple’s market share fell from 13.4% to 12.3%, which translates to a 7% overall drop in smartphone shipments. This was largely due to weak sales of the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max, which launched last September. Canalys notes that Apple’s numbers could have been lower if it had only launched two iPhones, as it normally does. It’s no secret that Apple’s iPhone sales have been declining, which is why the Cupertino company has been doubling down on its services revenue.
Samsung’s growth can be attributed to a number of factors, including more models and variety in its high-end devices — the Note10, for example, shipped with two screen sizes for the first time, in addition to a 5G version. According to Canalys, a “better price-to-spec” ratio in its mid-range Galaxy A devices also helped drive growth. This lineup included the A80, which sports a slide-up rotating camera. Samsung also launched the A90 5G phone last month, further indicating that 5G will play a big part in manufacturers’ sales moving forward.
“5G is the next battleground for Samsung,” said Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi. “It is one of very few smartphone vendors to design its own chipsets and modems. It is not, therefore, restricted to the innovation cycle of a third-party component supplier like Qualcomm. If Samsung moves faster than Qualcomm, it can win the race to mid-range smartphones with 5G.”
The trade ban
Last December, Huawei made noises about catching up with Samsung by the end of 2019, and while the numbers above lend some credence to that claim, it’s unlikely to come to fruition. Last week, the Chinese company announced it had already passed 200 million smartphones in 2019, two months earlier than last year. But the full impact of the U.S. decision to place Huawei on a trade blacklist has yet to be realized. New Huawei smartphones will not be able to ship with Google’s version of Android, a restriction that will likely deter consumers from buying the devices. Indeed, Huawei officially announced its new high-end Mate 30 series smartphone lineup last month, but the devices have yet to go on sale outside of China — a sign, perhaps, that Huawei is hoping it can somehow circumvent the ban on Google’s services.
It’s also worth noting that a knock-on effect of this trade ban has been an increase in Huawei’s domestic sales in China at the expense of rivals. So any international sales decline in the future could be offset to some degree by sales at home.
“Huawei is not out of the woods yet,” added Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton. “Its shipments overseas in Q3 were focused on pre-Entity List models, with P30 Lite its best shipper, at close to 3 million units. But its post-Entity List models, like Mate 30, bring uncertainty because there is resistance from channels in critical overseas markets, like Europe, to support Huawei devices without Google Mobile Services.”