Apple sold a record 74.5 million iPhones in the last quarter of 2014, meaning that the company further closed the gap on leader Samsung in a market that saw total global smartphone sales of more than 375 million units in the fourth quarter.
According to figures from Juniper Research and IDC, smartphone sales hit new record levels in the fourth quarter and the whole of 2014, with Juniper estimating sales of more than 375 million units in the fourth quarter and 1.2 billion for the year, and IDC in excess of 1.3 billion units for the full year, and a similar 375.2 million for the fourth quarter based on preliminary data.
IDC noted that the number of units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2014 represents 28.2 per cent growth when compared to the 292.7 million units shipped in the same quarter of 2013, and 11.9 per cent sequential growth above the 335.3 million units shipped in the third quarter of 2014.
The research companies agreed that while Apple's fortunes continued to improve last year--reducing the gap with Samsung to just 600,000 units in the fourth quarter according to IDC figures--the South Korean manufacturer faces continuing pressure from other manufacturers of Android-based smartphones in addition to Apple. IDC said Samsung saw a year-on-year decline in smartphone sales of 11 per cent to 75.1 million.
It's also considered possible that Apple could overtake its South Korean rival in 2015: "Most of the industry expected an extremely strong holiday quarter from Apple, especially with regards to the iPhone. However, worldwide shipments of 74.5 million units beat everyone's expectations," said Ryan Reith, programme director at IDC.
IDC also noted that, although global growth slowed to 27.6 per cent in 2014 from 40.5 per cent in 2013, "the market clearly still has legs".
However, the company added that mature markets have become increasingly dependent on replacement purchases rather than first-time buyers, which has contributed to slower growth. "In emerging markets, first-time buyers continue to provide a lot of market momentum, but the focus has shifted toward low-cost devices, creating a different dynamic for both global and local vendors," the company added.
Juniper Research: Phablets to account for over 20% of smartphones shipped by 2019
Report: Global mobile connections to reach almost 9.5B in 2019
CCS Insight: Tablets set to see a revival in fortunes after sluggish 2014
Samsung Electronics predicts first drop in profit in 3 years
Kantar: Apple's share of smartphone OS market increases further in Europe