The global smartphone market grew stronger than expected in the first quarter, by 4.3 percent to 347.4 million units, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Market leaders Samsung and Apple saw their sales little changed year-over-year, while Huawei, Oppo and Vivo continued to grow strongly, the market research firm said.
Samsung led the market with a 22.8 percent share, after falling behind Apple in the fourth quarter. The company shipped an estimated 79.2 million smartphones in the quarter, unchanged from a year ago. Apple took a 14.9 percent share, based on 51.6 million iPhones sold.
Huawei was in third place, growing 22 percent to an estimated 34.2 million phones shipped, equal to a 9.8 percent market share. Huawei’s share was up from 8.4 percent a year ago. Oppo also grew its share, to 7.4 percent from 5.9 percent a year ago, and Vivo was at 5.2 percent of shipments, versus 4.4 percent a year earlier.
The strong growth of manufacturers of budget smartphones, such as China-based Huawei, relative to the market leaders Apple and Samsung, indicates several things about the ever-changing global mobile market.
First, with technology developing, it is no longer as expensive as before to include advanced functionalities in smartphones, which allows the up-and-coming manufacturers to offer high-end features in low-end devices. That benefits developing markets and budget-minded consumers in developed markets. On the other hand, in developed markets, since high-end devices are not as novel as they used to be, having an Apple or Samsung smartphone may no longer be as important to users as status symbols, and these users may increasingly prioritize price over brand name, especially as the quality gap narrows.
For mobile operators, what all this means is that getting smartphones into the hands of more customers than ever is easier than ever. That makes it possible to sell ever-increasing amounts of mobile data (in particular, over 4G/LTE) to customers at all wealth levels. Furthermore, when operators build infrastructure to launch new services such as VoLTE, Wi-Fi calling, and eventually 5G, there will be more than enough smartphone-owning customers to maximize the utilization of these services and make them economically viable. And the lower prices of phones made by companies other than Apple and Samsung will make it less and less necessary for operators to subsidize devices.