After eight long quarters, Apple finally managed to trump Samsung in terms of quarterly worldwide smartphone sales, becoming the globe's top smartphone seller in the process. In the period between October and December, the Cupertino giant sold 77 million smartphones worldwide, a little more than Samsung's 76.7 million but enough to claim the crown.
Apple's triumphant return to the top spot is more incredible because it comes at a time when Samsung and other Chinese phone makers boast of a large number of capable mid-range smartphones which sell at less than half the price of Apple's products. It seems Apple's slightly cheaper iPhone SE may have played a part in the company's success this time.
“It has taken eight quarters for Apple to regain the No. 1 global smartphone vendor ranking, but the positions of the two leaders have never been so close, with only 256,000 units difference. The last time Apple was in the leading position was in the fourth quarter of 2014, when its sales were driven by its first ever large-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus,” said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner.
The fight this time has been close but the numbers could have been a lot different had Samsung not been forced to recall the brilliant Galaxy Note 7 because of mounting complaints on overheating. The Note 7 was a competent challenger to the iPhone 7 Plus but its demise ahead of the new iPhone release surely helped Apple in shoring up its numbers. According to Gartner, Samsung had sold as many as 83.4 million smartphones in Q4 or 2015 compared by 71.5 million sold by Apple.
Because of its encouraging sales, Apple held 17.9% share of the smartphone market, followed by Samsung at 17.8%, Huawei at 9.5% and Oppo at 6.2%. However, in the entire calendar year, Samsung led with 20.5% market share with 306.5 million sales, Apple followed with 14.4% with 216 million devices sold and Huawei followed with 8.9% with 132.8 million handset sales.
Compared to 2015 numbers, both Samsung and Apple sold 24 million fewer smartphones together even though overall smartphone sales rose from 1.423 billion to almost 1.5 billion in 2016. On the other hand, Chinese players performed admirably in the period with Huawei increasing its sales from 104 million to 139 million and Oppo increasing its sales from 39 million to 85 million. If the trend continues, these two Chinese smartphone majors may catch up with Samsung and Apple in the coming years. Another promising competitor in the period was BBK, whose sales grew by 278 percent in India and 363 percent in 2016 overall. The company is now the No. 2 phone seller in China and sold over 72 million phones in 2016.