Analysts: Smartphone growth slows to around 15% in Q2 thanks to weaker growth in U.S., China

The global smartphone market keeps on growing, it's just not growing as fast as it once did, according to industry research firms. In fact, thanks in large part to weaker sales growth in the U.S., Europe and China, the market is growing at its slowest rate in years.

According to a report from research firm Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments grew just 15 percent year-over-year in the second quarter to reach 339.5 million, up from 295 million in the year-ago quarter. It was the smartphone industry's slowest growth rate for six years, the research firm found.

Meanwhile, rival consultancy Juniper Research reported similar figures, and said that smartphone shipments reached 338 million in the second quarter, representing 16 percent year-over-year growth.

The weaker growth bodes ill for OEMs looking to revive sales. "This quarter was the smartphone industry's slowest growth rate for six years, since the depths of the global economic recession back in Q3 2009," Strategy Analytics Director Linda Sui said in a statement. "Smartphone growth is slowing due to increasing penetration maturity in major markets of the U.S., Europe and China. Smartphones will need a design transformation to revitalize growth in the future, such as foldable or rollable displays."

Samsung Electronics led the market, but its sales were slower than expected thanks to weaker-than-forecast sales of its flagship Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones. Samsung shipped 71.9 million smartphones worldwide and captured 21 percent market share in the second quarter, dipping from 74.5 million units and 25 percent market share a year earlier, according to Strategy Analytics. (For what it's worth, research firm IDC estimates that Samsung shipped 73.2 million smartphones in the second quarter; Samsung does not disclose quarterly smartphone sales.)

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) bucked the trend and shipped 47.4 million iPhones. Apple captured 14 percent market share in the second quarter, rising from 12 percent a year ago. "Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models remained wildly popular in China and worldwide, as consumers upgraded to larger-screen phablets for enhanced usability," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston said in a statement.

Both Juniper and Strategy Analytics said Huawei was No. 3 on the smartphone rankings, with more than 30 million shipments in the second quarter (Strategy Analytics put it at 30.5 million). Huawei said earlier this month it sold 48.2 million smartphones in the first half of the year, which was a 39 percent increase over the first half of 2014. The company also said that its mid- to high-end smartphone sales increased 70 percent. Huawei aims to sell 100 million smartphones in 2015. Huawei is expanding rapidly across Asia, Europe and North America, Strategy Analytics noted.

"The global smartphone market continued to mature this quarter, and the gap between winners and losers grew larger. While the launch of the P8 helped Huawei to nearly 50% y-o-y growth, Xiaomi, its nearest rival, shipped 20.5 million, representing an increase of a third compared to this time last year," Juniper said. "Juniper notes that the key difference between Huawei and Xiaomi is that Huawei is currently making an effort to expand beyond Asia. Xiaomi is not, leaving it vulnerable to the slowing of the Chinese market, which is also affecting ZTE."

Xiaomi and Lenovo/Motorola were the No. 4 and 5 players in the quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. "Xiaomi recaptured fourth position with 6 percent global smartphone market share in Q2 2015, nudging ahead of Lenovo-Motorola in fifth place with 5 percent share," Strategy Analytics analyst Woody Oh said in a statement. "Xiaomi has good distribution channels and competitive pricing in its large home market of China, enabling it to stay in front of Lenovo-Motorola who is struggling with the transition from 3G to 4G smartphones in China and the United States."

For more:
- see this Strategy Analytics release
- see this Juniper Research release

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