Smartphone sales decline 4.1% to 1.4B units in 2018

smartphone man
The global smartphone market is in decline. (Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash)

Apple and Samsung are not outliers with respect to declining smartphone sales. Global mobile device shipments were down 4.9% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a new report from IDC. The slide in sales is now a bona fide trend with five consecutive quarters of declines on record, and the outlook for 2019 doesn’t look any better.

“The challenging holiday quarter closes out the worst year ever for smartphone shipments,” the research firm wrote. During the full year of 2018, global smartphone shipments declined 4.1% to 1.4 billion units total. Smartphone vendors shipped 375.4 million units during the end-of-year quarter, according to IDC.

“Globally the smartphone market is a mess right now,” Ryan Reith, vice president of IDC’s worldwide mobile device trackers program, said in a prepared statement. “Outside a handful of high-growth markets like India, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam, we did not see a lot of positive activity in 2018. We believe several factors are at play here, including lengthening replacement cycles, increasing penetration levels in many large markets, political and economic uncertainty, and growing consumer frustration around continuously rising price points.”

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Volumes in China, which accounts for roughly 30% of the smartphone market, were down 10% in 2018. However, the top four Chinese brands—Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi—collectively grew their share of the market to 78%, up from 66% in 2017.

Globally, the top five smartphone vendors—Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi—grew their collective share of the market to 69%, up from 63% a year ago. Samsung also unseated Apple as the top smartphone company in the world with 18.7% of the market share on 70.4 million units during the fourth quarter, compared to Apple’s 18.2% market share on 68.4 million units. Both companies saw their market shares decline in 2018, but Apple slid further with an 11.5% year-over-year decline in units shipped, compared to Samsung’s 5.5% annual decline in total units.

Rounding out the top five, Huawei’s global shipments jumped 43.9% during the year to reach 16.1% of the market share during the fourth quarter on 60.5 million units shipped. OPPO shipped 29.2 million units during the end-of-year quarter, reaching a 7.8% share of the market. Finally, Xiaomi shipped 28.6 million devices during the quarter resulting in a 7.6% share of the market during the same period.

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