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May 27, 2024

Apple Dethrones Samsung as Top Smartphone Shipper After 12-Year Reign

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Jan 16, 2024

Apple shipped over 240 million iPhones in 2023, allowing it to surpass Samsung as the top smartphone vendor for the first time in over a decade, according to new reports from market research firms IDC, Canalys, and others.

The milestone caps years of steady iPhone growth and Samsung declines. It also validates Apple’s strategy of selling pricier phones and keeping customers in its ecosystem.

Years in the Making

Samsung had led the global smartphone market since 2011, the year Apple launched the iPhone 4s. But Apple has slowly chipped away at the Korean giant’s market share lead in recent years.

In 2021, Samsung controlled 18.7% of shipments versus Apple’s 15.9%, per IDC. By 2022, Samsung’s share had slipped to 16.1% while Apple’s rose to 16.3%. Now, Apple has finally eclipsed Samsung with an estimated 2023 market share of 24.5% against Samsung’s 20.2%.

While Samsung’s volumes fell 8% last year, likely due to economic pressures, Apple saw double-digit iPhone growth on strong demand for its iPhone 14 series. Canalys estimates 240.5 iPhone shipments for 2023 – nearly 25 million more than Samsung’s projected Galaxy volumes.

Validating Apple’s Strategy

The shipment crown highlights the success of Apple’s long-term strategy. Rather than chasing market share with budget devices, Apple has focused on selling premium iPhones and keeping users tied into its growing services ecosystem.

Average iPhone selling prices topped $900 last year, IDC reports, about three times higher than market average. Yet users keep upgrading to the latest iPhones, ensuring future App Store, iCloud, and other subscriptions revenue.

Apple has also excelled at tempting Android switchers. Almost 23 million iPhone users migrated from Android last year, per Counterpoint Research.

The loyal, lucrative installed base gives Apple tremendous ecosystem value – and now bragging rights as smartphone market leader.

Economic Pressures Impact Samsung

Conversely, Samsung’s strategy has struggled recently amid challenging economic times. High inflation and other macro pressures have weakened demand, especially for Samsung’s mid-range and low-end Galaxy A series phones.

With thinner profit margins than Apple’s luxury iPhones, Samsung took a disproportionate hit as buyers cut spending. Mid-range phones accounted for well over half of Samsung’s smartphone sales mix last year versus under 20% for Apple.

Samsung’s 2023 smartphone revenues are expected to drop 5% year-over-year, coming off three straight years of growth, per TrendForce projections. Profits could fall even further given rising component and production costs.

After years of playing smartphone volume leader, Samsung suffered from its exposure to the low- and mid-tiers in a inflationary climate.

What’s Next

With the companies’ Q4 earnings on tap soon, all eyes are on what’s next after Apple captured the industry’s top spot for the first time since 2011.

The Galaxy S23 Launch

Samsung kicks off its 2024 portfolio with the flagship Galaxy S23 series launch on February 1st. The world’s largest smartphone brand is hoping its latest Galaxy phones – running the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip from Qualcomm – can help it reclaim momentum against Apple’s iPhone 14 lineup.

Early S23 series leaks point to iterative upgrades over last year’s models, including improved cameras, battery charging speeds, and displays. More radical changes may wait until next year’s 10th generation Galaxy S phones.

In the interim, Samsung needs its bread-and-butter Galaxy S franchise to drive upgrades and restore its smartphone dominance. IDC expects replacement cycles to drive slight market growth in 2024 after last year’s decline. But with the iPhone 14 now holding the volume crown, Samsung faces pressure to deliver an appealing S23 product portfolio in just a couple weeks.

The Next iPhones

Apple is also likely already finalizing designs for this Fall’s presumed iPhone 15 series. Rumors point to a potential high-end model ditching physical volume and power buttons for solid state alternatives, an even more advanced A17 processor, and the usual camera and display enhancements.

After finally reaching the top without radical smartphone changes, Apple may be tempted to take bolder risks with the 2024 models now that it sets the market pace.

Of course, this year’s primary objective will be converting more Galaxy switchers while growing services revenue from its enlarged base. With incredible customer loyalty and luxury brand strength, expect Apple to leverage its new market leader status in advertising and retail promotions.

Considering Samsung ships Android phones at triple Apple’s ASP, there remains opportunity to court more aspirational professionals away from Galaxy. The shipment crown serves notice that Apple offers the world’s most popular smartphone for discerning users.

Market Outlook

With inflationary pressures potentially easing this year, the smartphone market could return to modest growth after 2023’s estimated 6.3% contraction.

IDC forecasts nearly 1.4 billion smartphone shipments by 2027 as 5G network coverage and new technology like foldables help spur demand.

Year Smartphone Shipments Annual Growth
2023 1.17 billion -6.3%
2024 1.19 billion (est) 1.5% (est)
2025 1.24 billion (est) 4.6% (est)
2026 1.29 billion (est) 4.1% (est)
2027 1.33 billion (est) 3.4% (est)

With market pressures easing, Samsung looks to rebound from consecutive down years. But after more than a decade as runner-up, Apple seems unlikely to relinquish its newly captured smartphone crown anytime soon.powering the industry’s next chapter with its unmatched brand appeal and ecosystem stickiness.

Key Takeaways

  • Apple shipped over 240M iPhones in 2023, finally dethroning Samsung as top global smartphone vendor
  • Ends Samsung’s 12-year reign as smartphone market leader
  • Validates Apple’s focus on premium devices, high loyalty, subscriptions growth
  • Samsung hurt by economic pressures, declining mid-range phone demand
  • Galaxy S23 launch on Feb 1st aims to jumpstart Samsung against iPhone 14
  • Apple well-positioned to leverage crown in marketing and court switchers
  • Smartphone shipments expected to rebound slightly in 2024

After more than a decade as runner-up, Apple seems poised to steer the smartphone market over the next few years – leveraging its crown jewel iPhone lineup, unrivaled brand appeal, and growing services ecosystem to keep users locked in and buying new devices. With the shipment throne now in hand, Apple looks well-positioned to power the industry’s next chapter.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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