Global sales of smartphones to end users totaled 432 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 7 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Gartner, Inc. The fourth quarter of 2016 saw Apple leapfrog past Samsung to secure the No. 1 global smartphone vendor position.
In 2016 overall, smartphone sales to end users totaled nearly 1.5 billion units, an increase of 5 percent from 2015 .
"This is the second consecutive quarter in which Samsung has delivered falling quarterly smartphone sales," said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner.
"Samsung's smartphone sales declined 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 and its share dropped by 2.9 percentage points year on year."
"Samsung's smartphone sales started to drop in the third quarter of 2016, and the decision to discontinue the Galaxy Note 7 slowed down sales of its smartphone portfolio in the fourth quarter," added Mr. Gupta.
"The withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 left a gap in its large-screen phone range." Samsung also faced growing competition in the midtier and entry-level smartphone segments from Huawei, Oppo, BBK and Gionee, which all grew their sales each quarter.
Closest Quarter Ever Between Samsung and Apple
It has taken eight quarters for Apple to regain the No. 1 global smartphone vendor ranking, but the positions of the two leaders have never been so close, with only 256,000 units difference.
"The last time Apple was in the leading position was in the fourth quarter of 2014, when its sales were driven by its first ever large-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus," said Mr. Gupta.
"This time it achieved it thanks to strong sales of its flagship phones — the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus; it also benefited from the weakened demand for Samsung's smartphones in mature markets such as North America and Western Europe, and in some mature markets in Asia such as Australia and South Korea.
In the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Google's Android extended its lead by capturing 82 percent of the total market in the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 3). In 2016 overall, Android also grew its market share by 3.2 percentage points to reach an 84.8 percent share, and was the only OS to grow market share year on year.
"The entry of Google's Pixel phone has made the premium Android smartphone offering more competitive, while the re-entry of HMD (Nokia) in the basic (midtier) smartphone category, is set to further increase the competition in emerging markets," said Mr. Gupta.