Kantar: 'Apple versus Samsung is so over'

Samsung and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) are the two dominant smartphone vendors on the planet, but they're facing increasingly stiff competition in international markets, according to fresh data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. In the U.S., though, both companies maintain loyal customer bases – for now, at least.

The market research firm said today that Samsung accounted for 37 percent of smartphone sales in the U.S. during the three-month span ending in May, and Apple claimed 29 percent of the market. And the high end of the market was an even tighter race: Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge accounted for 16 percent of sales, while Apple's iPhone 6s and 6s Plus took 14.6 percent.

"What's more, when we look at where these purchases are coming from, just 5% of Samsung purchases came from those switching away from Apple, while 14 percent of Apple purchasers came from those switching away from Samsung," wrote Lauren Guenveur, Kantar's mobile analyst, in a blog post. "In both cases, the majority of sales came from customers repurchasing and upgrading within their preferred brand. Among those intending to change devices within the next year, 88 percent of current Apple users and 86 percent of current Samsung users intend to stay loyal."

In fact, Samsung and Apple share the entire list of top 10 smartphones sold in both the U.S. and the U.K. markets, Kantar said. Both markets have seen sales plateau or even fall in the last year as they reach saturation and as upgrade cycles continue to lengthen.

Growth is slowing in China, too, but that market remains competitive due to lesser brand loyalty. Only 19 percent of Huawei smartphone buyers were repurchasing the brand, for instance, while 24 switched from Samsung devices. Forty-two percent of Apple buyers were repeat buyers, and 25 percent switched from Samsung.

Meanwhile, smartphone sales in India continue to see double-digit growth, and vendors have taken note. Samsung remains the No. 1 seller in India, but Micromax, Xiaomi and Apple are aggressively pursuing the market. Huawei recently announced a restructuring with the intent of targeting India, Kantar said, in an acknowledgement that its opportunities in the U.S. are limited.

"With high loyalty, slowing growth in developed markets, and Chinese brands leading the largest smartphone market in the world (and looking to the third) Apple and Samsung have less to worry about from each other going forward—and much more to worry about from other competitors, and the changing landscape," Guenveur wrote. "In that landscape, what remains to be seen is how sales in those developing markets in Latin and South America and India buffet the standing of the big three brands."

For more:
- see this Kantar blog post

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