Apple topples Samsung as world’s top smartphone maker

Apple’s iPhone dethroned Samsung Electronics devices to become the best-selling smartphone series over the course of 2023, the first time South Korea’s largest company has lost the top spot since 2010.

The iPhone accounted for a fifth of the global market with close to 235 million shipments last year, research firm IDC estimates. Samsung, whose shipments slumped double digits to 226.6 million, came in second, ahead of Chinese device makers like Xiaomi. While Apple has dominated the holiday quarter in recent years, its surge ahead of Samsung over a full year is unprecedented and suggests Apple is weathering an industrywide slump better than rivals.

Apple benefited from aggressive offers that have enticed a shift towards premium devices. It managed to expand shipments in 2023 despite a lukewarm reception late in the year for the iPhone 15 in China — its biggest international market — where Huawei Technologies’ growing popularity and a widening ban on government use is depressing sales.

“While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple,” IDC research director Nabila Popal said. “All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market. Apple’s ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market.”

The shift up the smartphone price chain has been driven in part by attractive trade-in offers and interest-free financing, IDC said. Apple was the only player in the global top three to register growth, of 3.7%, but it has not been immune to the wider decline. Sales in China of the latest-generation iPhone are significantly down from its predecessor, with some analyst expecting those drops to deepen.

Read: Apple cuts iPhone 15 prices in China amid demand fears

Part of Apple’s challenge in the world’s biggest mobile market comes from local tech powerhouse Huawei, which reclaimed some of the market share it lost after US sanctions by releasing the Mate60 Pro smartphone running on an advanced made-in-China processor. Apple this week introduced rare discounts on the iPhone in the country, of as much as 5% per handset, as it sought to stem further erosion of sales.  — (c) 2024 Bloomberg LP

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