Smartphone growth slumps to 2008 levels

Even a new iPhone couldn't inject excitment back into the smartphone market.

iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus

Despite the release of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Q4 iPhone sales declined, according to Gartner.

Image: Apple

Global sales of smartphones experience their slowest rate of growth since 2008, figures from analyst house Gartner have revealed.

A total of 403 million smartphones were sold between October and December 2015, a 9.7% increase over the same period in the previous year, but the figures - detailed in the Market Share: Devices, All Countries, 4Q15 Update report - represent the slowest rate of growth since the days of the original iPhone and the smartphone boom.

But while the rate in growth has declined, overall sales of smartphones continue to rise - 1.3 billion were sold during 2015 - but not for Apple, which saw iPhone sales for a quarter actually decline for the first time, according to Gartner's calculations.

During the final quarter of 2015 the company sold around 71 million devices to end users, a decline compared to the almost 75 million sold in the same period the previous year.

Gartner's figures suggest that Apple's loss is Samsung's gain, as the fourth quarter of 2015 saw the Korean firm widened the gap in the global market share and device sales over its American rival. Samsung sold over 83 million smartphones during Q4 2015, an increase of over ten million compared to Q4 2014, when the firm sold 73 million units.

The rise in sales boosted Samsung's market share for the quarter to 20.7%, giving it the largest market share for an individual manufacturer for the final quarter of 2015.

Samsung also beat Apple in overall smartphone sales figures for 2015 as a whole, selling over 320 million units. That gave the firm a 22.5% market share and puts it sales figures somewhat ahead of Apple, which sold almost 226 million iPhones during 2015 and achieved a 15.9% market share.

However, despite impressive sales figures, Samsung's overall share of the 2015 smartphone market has in fact declined, with competition from increasing competition from Chinese firms such as Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi seemingly the reason behind this.

Indeed, Huawei alone increased its worldwide smartphone sales from 68 million in 2014 to 104 million in 2015, partially thanks to an expansion drive in emerging markets.

"An aggressive pricing from local and Chinese brands in the midrange and entry-level segments of emerging markets led to consumers upgrading more quickly to affordable smartphones," says Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner.

However, when it comes to shares of the smartphone operating system market, it's Google's Android which remains massively dominant. Android's share smartphone sales in the last quarter of 2015 was 80.7%, a representing a rise of almost 5% on the previous year.

"Android benefited from continued demand for affordable smartphones and from the slowdown of iOS units in the premium market in the fourth quarter of 2015," explains Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

Apple's iOS operating system saw its share of the market decline from 20.4% in 2014 to 17.7% in 2015. The other players in the mobile space barely register, with Windows only commanding a 1% share of the market - down from almost 3% the previous year - while sales of smartphones operating on BlackBerry's OS only held a 0.2% share of the overall market.

It's likely that things aren't going to get any better for Microsoft and BlackBerry throughout 2016, as it's expected that Chinese smartphone manufactures will put additional pressure on other players.

"They are well positioned to capitalise on demand for midrange to lower-end smartphones in emerging markets as they aggressively expand outside China. Their cost advantage allows them to push affordable, but more sophisticated midtier offerings, while increasing their brand awareness," said Cozza.

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