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Global smartphone sales continue flat

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According to preliminary results from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 343.3 million smartphones worldwide in the second quarter of 2016 (2Q16).
This was relatively flat, up 0,3% from 2Q15 when vendors shipped 342.4 million units. The market did show greater sequential growth as shipments were up 3,1% from 333,1-million in the first quarter of 2016.
“We continue to see a number of changing dynamics in the smartphone market and many vendors are readjusting their business strategy and portfolio to take advantage of these market movements,” says Ryan Reith, programme vice-president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers.
“Mature markets continue the transition away from pure subsidy and over to EIP programs and Apple is beginning to put more emphasis on ‘Device as a Service’ to try to prevent lengthening replacement cycles. This is a growing theme we have heard more about from PCs to smartphones. Additionally, the overall China market slowdown continues to ramp up competition in other high growth markets like India, Indonesia, and Middle East.
“Interestingly enough, our early findings show low-end Chinese OEMs that predominantly built their business domestically in China are having success penetrating non-China markets, despite low-end competition from local brands already in place.”
The top five list remained intact from last quarter with Samsung remaining in front while also gaining share thanks to strong Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge performance. For Apple, the second quarter is seasonally its lowest of the year as consumers hold off on purchases in anticipation of the next big launch in the third quarter. Apple shipped 40,4-million units in 2Q16, which marked the lowest quarterly volume in seven quarters, despite the mid-cycle introduction of the iPhone SE. In the face of declining shipments, Apple did witness strong sales in both established and emerging markets thanks to the launch of the more affordable iPhone SE.
“Outside of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 flagship, a majority of vendors, including Apple, have found success with more affordable models compared to their flagship handsets,” says Anthony Scarsella, research manager: mobile phones at IDC. “As smartphone prices continue to drop and competition escalates at the high-end, vendors will need to continue to push ‘flagship-type’ devices at affordable price points to encourage upgrading on a more frequent basis.
“Chinese brands such as Huawei, OPPO, vivo, and Xiaomi have witnessed success with this strategy by shipping premium styled devices that focus on the features that matter most to consumers, such as imaging, sound quality, and design.”
Samsung remained the leader in the worldwide smartphone market thanks in large part to the success of the new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge flagship handsets. The new models proved to be the right mix of style and features and helped Samsung grow profits in the quarter. The inclusion of removable storage, waterproofing, and faster processor proved to be the winning combination for Samsung as consumers flocked to the new model. Outside of the S7, the J-Series performed well in both developed and emerging markets thanks to refreshed models (J7, J5, J3) which offer something for everyone at various sizes and price points. Look for the pending arrival of the Note 6/7, coming later this year, to challenge Apple’s latest and greatest.
Apple’s second quarter saw the Cupertino-based giant ship 40,4-million iPhones, representing a 15% year-over-year decline from the 47,5-million units shipped last year. The new 4-inch iPhone SE proved successful in both emerging and developed markets as the new SE has captured many first-time smartphone buyers as well as Android users switching over to the Apple ecosystem. The success of the cheaper SE did, however, have an impact on the overall average selling price (ASP) for an iPhone in the quarter. The ASP for an iPhone was $595, down 10,1% from $662 one year ago. As smartphone competition continues to escalate and upgrades continue to slow, Apple will look to drive sales with a newly designed iPhone 7 combined with their upgrade program come this fall.
Huawei captured the third position once again thanks to strong domestic sales and even stronger European sales. The increase in these two regions contributed to shipments totalling 32,1-million units, up 8.4% from last year. Huawei’s premium lineup of phones, like the new P9 and Mate 8 handsets, also pushed 25% of the quarter’s volume to the high-end (priced $500-$600). The Honor Series combined with the Y-Series balanced out the mid-tier and low-end with models like the Honor 5X and V8 proving successful as premium-like affordable alternatives. With Huawei number one in China at the moment, Huawei’s remaining challenge will once again be penetrating the US market at the high-end to compete with both Samsung and Apple.
OPPO continued with its aggressive marketing and advertising in 2Q16, especially for its flagship R9 device, which helped it see good sales in the quarter. It continued to leverage its strength in Tier 3 to Tier 5 cities in China, which significantly contributed to the strong growth. In Tier 1 cities, OPPO continued to be a leading sponsor for big name entertainment shows which has helped build the brand and bring light to its high-end portfolio. The key model for OPPO will be the R9, which right now is its top shipping model and the aggressive marketing around the device shows the company’s ambition in the high end of the market. Overall growth is still primarily in lower-tier China cities, as well as other big opportunity emerging markets like India and Indonesia.
Vivo is still on an upward trajectory in China, with momentum spread across multiple product models. At the time, vivo is still 100% focused on Asia/Pacific, with the vast majority of volume still in China. vivo had several new product launches in China during the second quarter, including the V3 and V3 Max. It also successfully hired the popular Korean star Soon Joong Ki as its celebrity endorser. Soon Joong Ki was the male lead in a Korean drama, “Descendants of the Sun,” which was a big hit in China. Having him as an endorser helped to give a boost to its brand as well as its smartphone sales in the region.