Vendors shipped well over 200 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, with Huawei posting some of the most impressive growth, according to two separate analyst firms.
IDC last week estimated smartphone shipments for the quarter at 219.4 million units, noting that the segment accounted for a record-breaking 45.5% of total handset sales for the period.
Huawei was quarter's third best-selling smartphone vendor, after Samsung and Apple. Huawei's shipments grew to 10.8 million units, up 89.5% year-on-year. IDC puts Huawei's global smartphone market share at 4.9%, noting that its strategy of pursuing the lower-cost end of the market is paying dividends.
Samsung widened its lead on Apple, shipping 63.7 million smartphones for a market share of 29%. While Apple's share fell to 21.8%, from 23% a year earlier, total shipments still grew by 29% year-on-year.
ZTE maintained its number 5 spot on the top five rankings, improving its market share marginally to 4.3% - only just behind fourth-ranked Sony's 4.5%.
"The fact that Huawei and ZTE now find themselves among the Top 5 smartphone vendors marks a significant shift for the global market," IDC research manager for mobile phones Ramon Llamas said. "Both companies have grown volumes by focusing on the mass market, but in recent quarters they have turned their attention toward higher-end devices.”
Juniper Research separately estimated that smartphone shipments for the quarter “exceeded 200 million.” The firm puts Samsung's market share at around 33%, and notes that Huawei and ZTE are leading the “second-tier smartphone battle.”
Some investment analysts are predicting that the era of strong smartphone sales is starting to come to an end - and expect sales to peak once the segment accounts for more than half of total handset sales.