Apple tops Samsung for first time in global smartphone shipments

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Person holding the iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

June Wan/ZDNET

Samsung has held dominance over the smartphone kingdom for over a decade. During that time, the company has, quarter after quarter, shipped more phones around the globe than any other manufacturer. But as of Q4 2023, that long reign has come to an end, with Apple shipping 234.6 million units, versus Samsung’s 226.6 million.

This is coming at a time when smartphone shipments grew 8% for the year, reaching a stunning 320 million units and ending seven consecutive quarters of slumping sales.

Also: The best phones we tested in 2023, including foldables and budget picks

For Q4, Apple led the sales with a 24% market share, thanks to the launch of the iPhone 15. Samsung came in second place with 17%. 

Rounding out the remaining top five slots were Xiaomi with 145.9 million units shipped, Oppo with 103.1 million units shipped, and Transsion (founded in 2006) with 94.9 million units shipped.

According to Canalys senior analyst Toby Zhu, “Products in the mid-to-low-end price range are the growth drivers in this recovery wave, helped by a rebound in demand in emerging markets, such as the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America.” 

“Meanwhile,” Zhu continued, “With inventory pressure and global inflation continuing to ease, vendors can finally focus on product innovation and long-term strategy developments, laying down solid foundations for the year ahead. There have already been plenty of new flagship Android launches taking advantage of the on-device AI trend, from Google Pixel and several Chinese vendors.”

Also: The best iPhone models you can buy right now (including the iPhone 15)

The new rise in sales comes on the heels of both top vendors suffering Q4 market declines. And, according to Amber Liu, Canalys research manager, Samsung spent 2023 focusing on the mid-to-high-end segment, which caused them to lose shares in the low-end segment. This, combined with Apple releasing the high-end iPhone 15, caused Samsung to lose market share, thereby bumping them off the top global position.

As reported by The Verge, the last time Samsung stood at number two on the list was in 2010. In that year, Apple wasn’t even in the top five and Nokia took the top spot with 453 million units shipped. For that year, Samsung shipped 280.2 million units. To put this into perspective, during the 2010 year, Research In Motion (the makers of the BlackBerry) took the fifth spot with 48.8 million units shipped.

We’ll see if Apple can continue its grip on the global market share, but with the upcoming release of the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, we might see yet another shift coming for Q1 2024.

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