TrendForce has predicted that shipments -- but not necessarily sales -- of smartphones will slide by 5.1 percent this quarter, due to "inventory-related pressures". TrendForce analyst Wilson Miao reckons that smartphone manufacturers ramped up shipments for the holiday quarter, and global numbers were also boosted by shipments of new Apple iPhones. Unsold stock may affect shipments in this year's first quarter.
This isn't a disaster for the smartphone market, and TrendForce is predicting that shipments will grow in each of this year's final three quarters. However, it may signal that the category is becoming more like other consumer products in having a seasonal sales pattern, rather than growing quarter on quarter.
TrendForce says in a statement that worldwide smartphone shipments grew by 32.2 percent to 265 million units in 2013Q4 compared with the same quarter last year. For the whole of 2013, they grew by an estimated 33.5 percent to approximately 945 million units.
It adds that Q4 sales of Apple iPhones "were remarkably impressive due to the company's decision last quarter to promote the iPhone 5S in China". TrendForce thinks Apple's Q4 shipments will be around 50 million units, which represents a growth of 47.8 percent quarter-on-quarter and 11.2 percent year-on-year.
This would give Apple a worldwide market share of 19 percent in the quarter. This is some way behind Samsung's 30 percent, but only 38 percent of Samsung's 80 million smartphone shipments were high-end models.
TrendForce also thinks that two "dark horses" did well, with both Sony and LG taking 4 percent of the global market in Q4. Sony benefited from its success in Japan, where it has achieved a 20 percent market share, while LG benefited from shipments of Google Nexus smartphones.
Nokia doesn't get a mention. By implication, its Q4 smartphone shipments were lower than the local Chinese suppliers Xiaomi and Gionee, which are credited with 3 percent each.