Apple has finally edged past Samsung to become the world’s top smartphone vendor in terms of shipments for the first time since 2011, ending the Korean giant’s 12-year reign at the summit of the industry.
Lead Up to Apple’s Triumph
For over a decade, Samsung has dominated the competitive smartphone landscape as the foremost vendor shipping phones globally. The company owes much of its success to its Galaxy lineup of Android phones spanning a range of prices to appeal to wider demographics. Last year, Samsung shipped an estimated 269 million smartphones globally.
Meanwhile, fueled by the enduring popularity of the iPhone, Apple has been closing the gap year after year while cementing its status as the world’s most profitable phone maker. Though it typically sells fewer devices than Samsung, Apple reaps much higher profit per device.
Last year Apple already toppled Samsung in Q4 2023 to become that quarter’s highest shipping smartphone vendor globally. Still Samsung clung to its full-year crown for 2023.
How Apple Finally Dethroned Samsung
As per new estimates by analyst firms like IDC, Apple shipped roughly 292 million iPhones over the course of 2023 while Samsung shipped somewhere between 255-260 million Galaxy phones.
Apple owes this landmark achievement to several factors:
Strong iPhone 14 series sales: 2023 saw Apple make its most ambitious iPhone lineup ever with four new models spanning a wide range in pricing. This allowed Apple to appeal to more buyers in crucial growth markets like India and China in particular. The latest iPhones built on the success of the well-received iPhone 13 cycle that preceded it.
Improving sales in China: The iPhone’s sales growth in China also accelerated, rising over 5% against an overall declining Chinese smartphone market. This allowed Apple to distance itself from Samsung whose sales declined in the crucial Chinese market.
Pent-up demand during recessionary times: Despite high inflation around the world, demand for iPhones has proven very resilient. With people holding onto their phones longer, pent-up demand for upgrades also aided sales. The aspirational appeal of iPhones made them relatively recession-proof.
Smartphone Shipments and Market Share 2023
| Vendor | Shipments (Millions) | Market Share |
| ------------- |:-------------:|-------------:|
| Apple | 292 | 25% |
| Samsung | 260 | 22% |
| Xiaomi | 143 | 12% |
| OPPO | 122 | 10% |
| vivo | 109 | 9% |
What Comes Next After This Upheaval
This changing of guard underscores a few key trends in an otherwise stagnating and shrinking global smartphone industry.
With iPhone sales growth still going steady against the industry malaise, Apple seems poised to only extend its lead this year if momentum holds up. Much will hinge on the reception to Apple’s next flagship series – likely the iPhone 15 – expected this Fall.
Samsung however faces an uphill battle despite traditionally doing well with its next-gen Galaxy S series launches early each year. This year, the Galaxy S24 series faces immense pricing pressure in key markets like India where local rivals are aiming to undercut it significantly.
Samsung will also fight hard to regain ground in vital growth markets like India where Apple has been gaining share rapidly recently. The next chapter of the Apple-Samsung clash will be defined by how well each giant fares in emerging markets outside their traditional strongholds.
If Apple sustains this lead, it can reshape the smartphone pecking order, with Chinese brands like Xiaomi and OPPO still heavily reliant on domestic sales unlike the global iPhone.
With the lines between smartphones and computers blurring, Apple is also in a prime spot to upsell its installed iPhone base to its MacBooks and iPads, further building its ecosystem. Its device synergies sharpen its edge against Samsung.
Though Samsung appears down, it would be premature to count the innovator out yet. Its Galaxy Z foldables point to smartphones’ next evolution,uons. As 5G adoption accelerates globally, it still retains scale advantages to tap into new opportunities.
For buyers worldwide spoiled by choice between these two industry titans driving each other to excel, this new phase promises even more technology marvels ahead. The battle for smartphone supremacy is far from over.
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.