Two companies still dominate smartphone sales, but it's been a tough, tough year

The fourth quarter is usually bumped up by holiday sales, but this quarter was the worst in a decade, according to analyst Canalys.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Young Asian woman holding smartphone while waking up in bed in the morning.
Image: Oscar Wong via Getty Images

Apple and Samsung are the top smartphone manufacturers by marketshare once again, but it's also a year where supply shortages and slowing sales have hampered the industry as a whole.

Tech analyst Canalys reports that worldwide Q4 2022 smartphone shipments fell by 17% year-on-year, while shipments across the year declined 11% to just under 1.2 billion. Analyst IDC estimates the industry shipped 1.24 billion smartphones in 2022 with no growth for 2023.   

But Apple's iPhone reached its highest ever marketshare at 25% in the fourth quarter. It's traded top spot with Samsung twice since 2020, both also occurring in Q4, in line with its September launch of new iPhones. 

Samsung, which is widely expected to launch its Galaxy S23 series on February 1, finished this quarter with a 20% worldwide share. In third place, Xiaomi had an 11% share, while Oppo and Vivo had 10% and 8% respectively. 

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This quarter was the worst Q4 performance for smartphone shipments in a decade, according to Canalys. 

And it's not just smartphones that are struggling. PC shipments are in the doldrums too as consumers and now businesses hold back spending. Full-year PC shipments for 2022 reached 286.2 million units, a 16.2% decrease from 2021, according to analyst Gartner. Q4 2022 PC shipments declined 28.5% year on year -- the biggest decline Gartner has recorded since it started tracking the PC market in the mid-1990s.   

That drop can partly be explained by COVID-19-related supply chain issues in China in the quarter, but also because retailers are wary of carrying too much inventory. In November, Apple was contending with disruptions at Foxconn's Zhengzhou iPhone assembly plant. Apple warned that shipments during the holiday season would be lower than expected due to the disruptions.   

"Smartphone vendors have struggled in a difficult macroeconomic environment throughout 2022. Q4 marks the worst annual and Q4 performance in a decade," said Canalys research analyst Runar Bjørhovde

"The channel is highly cautious with taking on new inventory, contributing to low shipments in Q4. Backed by strong promotional incentives from vendors and channels, the holiday sales season helped reduce inventory levels. While low-to-mid-range demand fell fast in previous quarters, high-end demand began to show weakness in Q4. The market's performance in Q4 2022 stands in stark contrast to Q4 2021, which saw surging demand and easing supply issues." 

Canalys is forecasting flat-to-marginal growth for smartphones in 2023. 

Samsung still held on to top spot for full-year shipments, with a 22% share versus Apple's 19% share. 

The slowdown in shipments of new smartphones comes as shipments of used and refurbished smartphones reach all-time highs. IDC expects used smartphone shipments to rise from 283 million in 2022 to 413 million in 2016. The used segment has increased due to vendors such as Samsung and Apple using trade-in programs to stoke sales of new models. 

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