Apple’s imperious Q4 sees it eat into Samsung’s smartphone lead

4 Mar 2015

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Driven by the popularity of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, consumer tech giant Apple led the way in smartphone sales for the fourth quarter last year and reeled in rival Samsung’s full-year share.

Samsung still rules the roost, with over 300m devices sold over the course of the year – slightly up on 2013 – but Apple’s rise of 40m to an impressive 191m shows just what Samsung is up against.

Coupled with Apple’s ludicrously successful profit model, and Android’s general race to the bottom, Samsung’s ability to compete with Apple at the high end of the market is crucial to any success in its mobile division.

"Samsung's performance in the smartphone market deteriorated further in the fourth quarter of 2014, when it lost nearly 10 percentage points in market share," said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

"Samsung continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013. This downward trend shows that Samsung's share of profitable premium smartphone users has come under significant pressure."

Q4 smartphone sales

Big move, and a big response

Apple’s big-screen smartphone shift in 2014 should worry the South Korean company, with Samsung’s newly released S6 and S6 Edge now pivotal to the defence of its crown – first impressions are that these devices will be quite popular.

"With Apple dominating the premium phone market and the Chinese vendors increasingly offering quality hardware at lower prices, it is through a solid ecosystem of apps, content and services unique to Samsung devices that Samsung can secure more loyalty and longer-term differentiation at the high end of the market," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

Full year smartphone sales

Interestingly the bottom end of Android smartphone sales – which is, by a distance, the most competitive area – sees Xiaomi continue its emergence as a significant player.

The Chinese manufacturer increased its Q4 smartphone sales from over five million in 2013, to well over 18m. Elsewhere in the Android race, Lenovo (+24m), Huawei (+21m) and LG (+11m) all saw significant full year gains, with overall smartphone sales rising significantly on the back of a record Q4.

Operating systems

Despite the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus' popularity, iOS remained a distant second to Android overall

iPhone and Samsung image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com