By Kymberly Martin

Battle between Apple and Samsung for #1 spot

Global sales of smartphones to end users totaled 432 million units in Q4 2016, a 7% increase over Q4 2015, according to IT firm Gartner. Q4 2016 saw Apple leapfrog past Samsung to become the leading smartphone vendor.

“This is the second consecutive quarter in which Samsung has delivered falling quarterly smartphone sales,” Gartner research director, Anshul Gupta said. “Samsung’s smartphone sales declined 8% in Q4 2016 and its share dropped by 2.9 percentage points year-on-year.”  He said the decision to discontinue the Galaxy Note7 slowed down sales of Samsung’s smartphone portfolio in Q4, leaving a gap in its large-screen phone range.

But’s it’s a close race with only 256,000 units separating the two contenders. “The last time Apple was in the leading position was in Q4 2014, when its sales were driven by its first ever large-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus,” Gupta said. “This time it achieved it thanks to strong sales of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple also benefited from the weakened demand for Samsung’s smartphones in mature markets in North America and Western Europe, and also in some mature markets in Asia such as Australia and South Korea.”



Chinese brands Huawei, Oppo and BBK accounted for 21.3% of smartphones sold in Q4 2016. Huawei introduced Mate 9 during the quarter, within a month of Samsung discontinuing the Galaxy Note7, which was good timing to position it as an alternative, according to Gupta.  He said the Mate 9 with Alexa will start shipping into the US in Q1 2017. Oppo, which recently launched its latest smartphone the R9s in Australia, is the leading brand in China and the fourth smartphone vendor overall.

Gupta predicted brands including Oppo, Huawei and Lenovo, who are aggressively expanding into markets outside China, will continue to disrupt the top smartphone players in 2017.

The dominance of the Android operating system is set to continue in 2017, before Apple releases its next-generation iPhones in the second-half of 2017. As well as the imminent launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S8, new Android models include the LG G6 and Huawei’s P10. More will be announced at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona on February 27, including new devices from Nokia and BlackBerry.