Worldwide smartphone sales climbed 9.1 percent year-on-year to hit 380 million units in the first quarter of 2017, fuelled by Chinese manufacturers offering competitive price-points for feature-packed devices.
Mobile phone buyers were forking out more cash for better models, which pushed up the average selling prices the various phone categories, said Gartner. This trend had benefitted China's domestic manufacturers including Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo, which built on their strategy to offer affordable devices with features that users wanted, the research firm said.
Together, Chinese smartphone makers accounted for 23.9 percent of the global market for the quarter, growing their market share by 7 percent over the first quarter last year.
Gartner's research director Anshul Gupta said: "The top three Chinese smartphone manufacturers are driving sales with their competitively priced, high quality smartphones equipped with innovative features. Furthermore, aggressive marketing and sales promotion have further helped these brands to take share from other brands in markets such as India, Indonesia, and Thailand."
Korea's Samsung saw its smartphone sales dip 3.1 percent, despite clocking a 30 percent uptick in preorders for its latest Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus models. It sold 78.67 million units in the quarter, compared to 81.18 million in the same quarter last year.
"The absence of an alternative to Note 7 and the fierce competition in the basic smartphone segment are leading Samsung to continuously lose market share," noted Gupta. The Korean manufacturer still led the market with a 20.7 percent share, compared to last year's 23.3 percent.
Apple iPhone sales remained flat at 51.9 million units, which led to a drop in its market share from 14.8 percent to 13.7 percent, placing it second in the top five vendor list.
"Similar to Samsung, Apple is increasingly facing fierce competition from Chinese brands Oppo and Vivo, amongst others, and its performance in China is under attack," Gupta said.
Third-placed Huawei was able to narrow the gap with Apple, clocking 34 million units in the first quarter where it continued to see strong sales for the P9 and P9 Plus even though the smartphones were launched more than a year ago.
It faced mounting pressure, though, as its Chinese peers were catching up, said the Gartner analyst said. Oppo, specifically, saw its global smartphone sales climb 94.6 percent, which was the best performance for the quarter. It remained China's leading market player.
"Oppo continued to rally sales through a large network of brick-and-mortar retailers, beating market incumbents such as Samsung and Huawei," said Gupta, adding that the vendor's strategy, which focused on the camera, fast-charging capabilities, and offline retail, helped Oppo augment its sales internationally.
He said Vivo also enjoyed a solid quarter, selling 25.8 million smartphones and clocking a market share of 6.8 percent for the quarter. The Chinese vendor saw high demand for its devices in emerging Asia-Pacific markets, including India where sales grew more 220 percent, he added, pointing to Vivo's increased brand appeal and high-quality smartphones.
Google's Android remained the leading smartphone OS for the quarter, increasing its market share by 2 percent to 86.1 percent. More than 327.16 million Android-based devices were sold worldwide, compared to 51.99 million on the Apple iOS.
Gartner attributed Android's strong footprint to growing acceptance of Chinese brands in global markets, adding that Google's introduction of entry-level Android Go would continue to drive the platform's growth.