Apple overtook Samsung in the fourth quarter of 2016 to become the global smartphone leader, while annual global smartphone shipments hit an all-time high of 1.49 billion, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
A total of 438.7 million smartphones were shipped during the fourth quarter, a growth of 9 percent annually, Strategy Analytics said. Apple became the leader with 18 percent and 78.3 million units during the October-December period as it "capitalized on Samsung's recent missteps".
The South Korean tech giant shipped 77.5 million units during the same period, a drop of 5 percent from a year ago, with 18 percent market share. For the full year, Samsung maintained its leader position with 22.2 percent market share, followed by runner-up Apple with 16.1 percent.
Huawei was struggling at home against rivals like compatriot Oppo but maintained third position thanks to accelerating performances in Western Europe. Oppo was fourth with 2.8 percent and will aim to expand beyond China this year, Strategy Analytics noted.
The global smartphone market recovered slightly due to stronger demand in China and Africa and grew 3 percent from a year ago to 1.49 billion units, the firm said.
On the same day, Apple announced it sold a record 78.29 million iPhones in the October-December period, up 5 percent from a year ago.
In its conference call, Apple said it "saw especially strong demand" for the iPhone 7 Plus which accounted for a higher portion compared to the iPhone 7, with demand exceeding supply throughout the quarter. The bigger-screened model likely soaked up sales in the absence of its chief rival, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, during the quarter.
Samsung earlier announced that it will reveal the Galaxy S8 after the Mobile World Congress in February, which will help it steer through the first quarter of 2017 without a new flagship.