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Samsung, Apple struggle to maintain global smartphone shipment lead: Canalys

The industry overall, however, saw shipments exceed 300 million units for the first time ever in a quarter, as per Canalys' tracking.

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Credit: CNET/CBS Interactive

Smartphone makers are battling it out for the global number three spot, behind a slipping Apple and Samsung.

That’s according to new country-level data from market research firm Canalys, which suggests booming sales for the category fueled by increased vendor competition.

Shipments in the global smartphone market grew 23 percent over the third quarter of 2013, exceeding 300 million for the first time in a quarter, as per Canalys’ tracking.

Apple and Samsung together accounted for 38 percent of worldwide shipments, a whole ten percent less than the 48 percent share they enjoyed a year ago. Canalys attributes the decline to a mix of increased competition and a rise of local vendors making significant gains in their home countries, thanks to aggressive pricing strategies. For instance, three of India’s top five vendors are local brands.

"A key similarity to the Chinese market has emerged in India with respect to the substantial contribution made by domestic vendors,’ said Canalys research analyst, Rushabh Doshi. "Three of the top five vendors there – Micromax, Lava and Karbonn – are Indian companies, achieving promising growth in their home market, but with aspirations and potential, in time, to be disruptive on the global stage."

Samsung continued to struggle with channel inventory, leading to its 9 percent drop in market share, clocking the vendor in at 25 percent of Q3 2014 shipments. While that puts Samsung in the top spot, its growth in China remained sluggish, as the vendor fell further behind Xiaomi and lost share in key markets such as the US and India.

Meanwhile Apple’s share grew to 13 percent for the quarter, which Canalys attributes to pent up demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Xiaomi rounded out the top three with 6 percent, followed closely by Lenovo and Huawei, both with a five percent share.

According to Canalys VP and principal analyst Chris Jones, the struggle for Apple and Samsung shows no sign of slowing.

"This trend is likely to continue. It is down to the strong value proposition and increasing quality of products offered across all price points by competing vendors, most notably Chinese companies," Jones said. "In fact, six of the top 10 global vendors in Q3 are based in China."