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March 2, 2024

Apple Dethrones Samsung to Become Top Smartphone Vendor Globally in 2023

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Jan 16, 2024

Apple has finally toppled Samsung to become the top smartphone vendor globally in terms of shipments for full-year 2023, according to new reports from market research firms IDC, Canalys and Counterpoint Research. This marks a major milestone for Apple, as Samsung had led the global smartphone market since 2012 when it overtook Nokia.

Apple Hits Record iPhone Shipments While Overall Market Declines

As per the latest data from IDC, Apple shipped 297.4 million iPhones in 2023, capturing 25.3% market share and registering 1.9% yearly growth. This is an all-time-high shipment number for Apple. In contrast, Samsung shipped 263.5 million units, declining by 2.9% year-over-year and capturing 22.6% market share.

The global smartphone market declined 3.2% annually in 2023, shipping 1.174 billion units. This can be attributed to various macroeconomic headwinds like inflationary pressures, geopolitical tensions, supply constraints etc. which weakened consumer demand. However, the premium segment remained resilient led by strong iPhone sales.

Canalys and Counterpoint Research estimates also point to a similar market scenario with Apple holding the pole position in 2023. As per Counterpoint, Apple gained 6 percentage points (year-over-year) in Q4 2022 to capture 25% market share while Samsung lost 3 percentage points.

Global Smartphone Vendor Shipments and Market Share 2023

| Vendor  | Shipments (Million Units) | Annual Growth | Market Share | 
| ------------- |:-------------:|-------------:|-------------:|
| Apple      | 297.4 | 1.9% | 25.3% |
| Samsung   | 263.5      |   -2.9% | 22.6% |
| Xiaomi | 143.9    | -17.6% | 12.3% |
| Oppo | 122.3      |    -17.9% | 10.4% |  
| Vivo | 111.5 | -17.8%      |   9.5% |

Source: IDC

Key Factors Behind Apple’s Rise

Several factors have contributed to the iPhone maker’s stellar performance and ascension to the throne after nearly 13 years of Samsung’s dominance in the smartphone space.

1. Strong iPhone 14 Series Reception

Launched in September 2022, Apple’s latest iPhone 14 series has witnessed tremendous response globally thanks to an upgraded camera system, new safety features like car crash detection and satellite connectivity for emergencies, an improved battery life plus the powerful A16 bionic chip.

As per Canalys Analyst Amber Liu, “Uptake of the latest iPhones has been strong, despite the economic headwinds.” The iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max in particular have seen robust demand, even with supply constraints. This indicates that even with inflationary pressures, Apple has a set of loyal customers who continue to upgrade to the latest iPhones.

2. Resilient Premium Smartphone Segment

The premium smartphone segment (models priced above US$800) demonstrated resilience and registered growth even as the overall market fell. As per Counterpoint Research Director Tarun Pathak, “The premium market remained almost unaffected by the shrinking demand.”

Flagship phones like the iPhone 14 Pro series accounted for 17% of the global smartphone unit sales in Q4 2022, compared to 12% a year ago. With its brand appeal and cutting-edge technologies like the Dynamic Island, Apple was at the forefront to tap this demand.

3. Sluggish Mid-Range Android Demand

Android brands faced lackluster demand for their mid-range smartphones which dominate their portfolios. With consumers tightening their wallets amidst inflation, mid-range phones were the first segment impacted. Market leader Samsung also relies heavily on its Galaxy A and M series models in this price band.

On the contrary, Apple with its relatively small product portfolio focuses on the premium segment. So despite the macro headwinds, it was relatively insulated from poor mid-range phone demand.

4. Strong Growth in China

Apple witnessed an impressive resurgence in China, which happens to be the world’s largest smartphone market. After declining for several consecutive quarters, iPhone shipments in China grew over 14% year-over-year in Q4 2022 as per Counterpoint’s estimates.

This was driven by both patriotic purchases as well as iPhone 14 demand by aspirational middle-class consumers during the major Singles’ Day shopping festival in China. Apple’s increasing traction in China played a pivotal role behind its global smartphone domination.

5. Samsung’s Strategic Missteps

While Apple fired on all cylinders, chief-rival Samsung failed to keep pace. After the strong response for its foldable phones in 2021, Samsung’s foldable sales momentum slowed down in 2022. The niche ultra-premium segment couldn’t offset broader mid-range weakness.

Moreover, Samsung continued to struggle in the key India smartphone market in 2022 despite heavy investments in manufacturing and marketing. With India becoming the fastest-growing smartphone market globally, Samsung’s inability to gain share here compounded the pressure.

What Lies Ahead for Apple and Samsung?

With the baton now passed to Apple, what does the future outlook hold for Apple as well as rival Samsung? Here are some predictions:

Maintaining Dominant Market Position Won’t Be Easy

Apple faces an uphill task to sustain its newly gained leadership position in 2024 and beyond. Market research firm TrendForce predicts Apple’s smartphone shipments to decline next year as global demand shrinks further. So while Apple may hold onto the top vendor crown in 2024, its shipments could drop elucidating the challenges to uphold dominance.

To offset macro weakness, Apple would need to target more price-conscious consumer segments which currently account for a small portion of its sales. However, that risks diluting its premium branding. Walking this tightrope to balance ASPs and volumes would be tricky.

Foldables & Emerging Markets Key for Samsung

Although dethroned this year, Samsung is still a formidable smartphone giant expected to ship over 250 million units in 2023. It would look to revive growth by doubling down on foldables, launching new form factors like slidables, plus more aggressive pricing and product segmentation.

Reigniting momentum in India and Southeast Asia would also be critical for Samsung after losing share in these high-growth markets. Its Galaxy S23 series coming next month gives Samsung a timely chance to bounce back strongly.

Chinese Brands Xiami, Oppo & Vivo Face Survival Crisis

The worst hit have been the Chinese brands which dominated global shipments until recently. Xiami, Oppo and Vivo registered massive annual declines of 17-18% each in 2023 per IDC. Their overseas expansion plans have hit major roadblocks amidst slackening demand.

These companies now face a survival crisis in 2024. Deep distribution channel reforms, aggressive pricing, heavy marketing investments and cost control would be needed just to halt further market share losses in the near term.

So in summary, while Apple seems to have gatecrashed Samsung’s smartphone leadership party in 2023, it faces an equally arduous task of defending its newly conquered top position. Samsung would be hungry to reclaim lost glory when it unveils the Galaxy S23 series. And for Chinese brands, it would be all about preventing a free fall in the coming year.

The smartphone vendor rankings have been completely overturned within a span of just 2-3 years. And the battle for supremacy could intensify further in 2024 if the challenging demand environment persists. So expect the industry leaderboard to remain extremely fluid with the top players locked in intense competition during these turbulent times.

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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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