Huawei topples Apple as smartphone shipments fall again

(Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei was the only major smartphone manufacturer to increase its market share during the first quarter of 2019, defying industry-wide challenges to overtake Apple and close the gap on leader Samsung.

New figures form IDC suggest Huawei saw shipments rise by 50.3 per cent year-on-year to 59.1 million units. This gives the Chinese manufacturer a market share of 19 per cent.

Meanwhile Samsung saw shipments fall by 8.1 per cent to 71.9 million. The firm says sales of the flagship of the higher margin Galaxy S10 have been encouraging, but there has been less success in the mid-range segments This has affected market share which has slipped to 23.1 per cent.

Smartphone sales

Samsung is confident the a refreshed ‘Galaxy A’ portfolio will guard against any further encroachment from Huawei in the mid-range, but analysts say it should not lose focus.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that Huawei is laser focused on growing its stature in the world of mobile devices, with smartphones being its lead horse," said IDC’s Ryan Reith.

“The overall smartphone market continues to be challenged in almost all areas, yet Huawei was able to grow shipments by 50%, not only signifying a clear number two in terms of market share but also closing the gap on the market leader Samsung. This new ranking of Samsung, Huawei, and Apple is very likely what we'll see when 2019 is all said and done."

Apple itself saw units fall by 30.4 per cent to 36.4 million, reducing its share to 11.7 per cent. Apple’s service revenue is helping to offset falls in hardware, but a lack of foldable and 5G handsets could count against it later in 2019. Apple’s first 5G iPhone isn’t expected until 2020.

Elsewhere, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo make up the top six.

Overall, the market contracted for the sixth consecutive quarter, with consumers taking longer to refresh their handsets.

"Consumers continue to hold on to their phones longer than before as newer higher priced models offer little incentive to shell out top dollar to upgrade,” added IDC’s Anthony Scarsella. “Moreover, the pending arrival of 5G handsets could have consumers waiting until both the networks and devices are ready for prime time in 2020."

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.