GfK said smartphone shipments in Western Europe shrank by 6 per cent year-on-year to 30 million units in the first quarter of the year, marking the first time that demand has fallen in the region on an annual basis.
In contrast, the research company said the global market as a whole increased by 6 per cent to 337.2 million units in the same period.
However, the figure differs somewhat from those published by Strategy Analytics and IDC in April. Indeed, Strategy Analytics said global smartphone shipments fell by 3 per cent year-on-year to 335 million units in the first quarter of 2016, marking the first time in history that this market has shrunk on an annual basis.
Meanwhile Gartner also provided marginally different smartphone sales figures, saying that global sales grew by 3.9 per cent year-on-year to 349 million units in the first three months.
In Western Europe, GfK said the region's performance was particularly influenced by an 11 per cent decline in Germany, with sales expected to fall here by 3 per cent in 2016. However, GfK expects to see a partial recovery in Western Europe in the second half of 2016, helped by the launch of the Apple iPhone 7.
Demand was extremely variable worldwide, with markets such as the U.S. returning to growth and China experiencing the strongest growth in demand for almost two years. GfK noted that the global market overall was aided by the purchase of low-cost smartphones in emerging markets.
However, the research company said growth is slowing down year-on-year and has downgraded its 2016 growth forecast to 5 per cent year-on-year as a result.
Arndt Polifke, global director of telecom products at GfK, noted that while the emerging markets will continue to drive smartphone take-up as people get online for the first time, other devices are starting to have an impact on demand.
"We are seeing how the next wave of growth from wearables, virtual reality and smart home can be complementary to smartphone growth in 2016 and beyond," Polifke said.
Gartner also provided an update on vendor rankings. While Samsung and Apple retained their first and second places respectively, Chinese vendors are strengthening their grip on the market.
Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said these emerging brands are disrupting the long-standing business models of existing brands to increase their share.
"With such changing smartphone market dynamics, Chinese brands are emerging as the new top global brands. Two Chinese brands ranked within the top five worldwide smartphone vendors in the first quarter of 2015, and represented 11 per cent of the market. In the first quarter of 2016, there were three Chinese brands -- Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi -- and they achieved 17 per cent of the market," Gupta said.
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