Smartphones sales fall again but Chinese manufacturers make gains

Man on mobile phone in street

The number of smartphones sold around the world fell for the second consecutive quarter, but Chinese manufacturers made major gains and Apple’s revenues increased despite a modest rise in iPhone shipments.

Figueres from IHS Markit show that global shipments fell by 3.3 per cent to 354.8 million during the third quarter of 2018, continuing from a 2.1 per cent drop in Q2.

Samsung is still the world’s biggest manufacturer with 70.9 million shipments, but this is down 15 per cent year-on-year with the firm’s market share falling to 20 per cent amid intense competition from Chinese firms.

Global smartphone sales

Huawei retained the second-placed position it won from Apple in the previous quarter as shipments rose by a third to 52 million thanks to growth in all regions apart from North America where it is effectively frozen out of the market.

Rival Xiaomi also enjoyed double digit figure growth to stay ahead of Oppo in fourth place, while Vivo secured fifth. Indeed, the combined shipments of the four leading Chinese manufacturers totalled 144.5 million – two fifths of the market – highlighting their growing dominance of the mid and low end segments, especially in emerging markets like India.

Analysts suggest their speed to market is a crucial advantage, meaning they can react to industry trends more quickly.

“Wide edge-to-edge displays, notched displays, multi-camera and display-embedded fingerprint scanners became widely available from Chinese manufacturers much faster than other global manufacturers,” said Jusy Hong and Zaker Li from IHS Markit. “This ability empowers their brand image and awareness, which leads to increasing sales volumes.”

As for Apple, its strategy of compensating for slowing growth by releasing more expensive handsets appears to be paying dividends. Shipments rose by 0.5 per cent to 46.9 million units but revenue rose by 29 per cent thanks to the price tag of the recently-launched iPhone XS and XS Max.

And, IHS expects Apple to wrest second place back from Huawei in Q4 thanks to strong Christmas sales of the relatively cheaper iPhone XR. Apple itself has predicted “record” sales of between $89 and $93 billion for the holiday season.