Apple iPhone beware: Huawei, Oppo, BBK are closing gap in smartphone sales

China's fast-growing smartphone market is offering favorable conditions for local vendors at the expense of Apple and Samsung.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Against the growing strength of the Chinese, Apple has faltered and Samsung suffered its largest decline in sales on record in Q3 2016.

Image: Gartner

Smartphone vendors have sold 373 million devices in the third quarter, 5.7 percent more than they did a year ago, according to analyst firm Gartner.

But while smartphone sales have bounced back, that growth comes mostly from the Chinese smartphone market, which is paying off for Chinese vendors Huawei, Oppo, and BBK with its Vivo and OnePlus products. These three are the only top five vendors that have increased sales over the period, while Samsung and Apple have failed to win over customers.

According to Gartner, Samsung has suffered its worst decline in smartphone sales on record, falling 14.2 percent year on year to 71.7 million units, which has left it with a 19.2 percent share.

Apple has sold 43 million iPhones, giving it 11.1 percent share of sales, just a tad ahead of Huawei, which has moved 32.5 million phones and now has an 8.7 percent share.

Apple's iPhone sales are down by 6.6 percent across the world, but declines have been steeper in the US and China, where sales have fallen by 8.5 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Samsung's record decline coincided with its Galaxy Note 7 exploding-battery disaster, which Gartner expects will prevent it boosting sales in the short term and leaves a lot riding on a problem-free Galaxy S8 launch.

Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said smartphone sales in China have grown by 12.4 percent, benefiting mostly Oppo and BBK.

"In Oppo's case, 81 percent of its smartphone sales came from China, while BBK accounted for 89 percent of smartphones sales in China. These two vendors also grew strongly in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Russia," he added.

According to Gartner, Android accounted for 87.5 percent of all smartphones sold, up from 84.7 percent last year.

Apple's iOS now represents 11.5 percent, down from 13 percent a year ago. Microsoft still managed to sell 1.5 million Windows phones, while BlackBerry sold 755,000 smartphones, but their respective market shares are now approaching zero.

Gartner's figures for smartphone sales differ slightly to recent shipment numbers from IDC and Strategy Analytics, but all three analyst firms' data reflects the rise of Chinese handset brands at the expense of Apple and Samsung, thanks to a combination of saturation in mature markets and cheaper phones with higher-end features from Chinese vendors.

Profits are a completely different story. Apple historically has taken the lion's share of the industry's profit. Depending which financial analyst you believe, Apple's share of profits range between 75 percent to over 100 percent once losses by different vendors are accounted for.

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