Samsung Takes Smartphone Crown From Apple — But It’s the Chinese Brands Who Are Winning

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  • Samsung is the best-selling manufacturer of smartphones, with a 20.8% market share.
  • The smartphone market grew by 7.8% in early 2024.
  • Chinese smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi and Transsion command over half the global market share
  • Apple searches for its next big thing after a 10% drop in iPhone sales.

Samsung has once again been declared the best-selling smartphone manufacturer in the world. Despite Apple briefly securing the top spot at the end of 2023, iPhone sales have dipped to levels not seen since the COVID-19 lockdowns.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) report reveals that Samsung now holds a 20.8% global market share, while Apple’s share has declined to 17.3%.

Apple fans will inevitably say that Samsung’s figures will be inflated because they include the release of the Galaxy S24, UltraGalaxy S24+, and Galaxy S24 in January.

However, Samsung’s integration of advanced Galaxy artificial intelligence (AI) features raises consumer expectations, while Apple is still looking for — or at least not yet talking about — its next big thing.

While Apple and Samsung dominate the headlines, two Chinese smartphone brands—Xiaomi and Transsion—will be toasting a celebration for stunning year-on-year growth.

So, what other factors contributed to Samsung reclaiming the smartphone crown from Apple, and how will this shift impact the global mobile market landscape?

2024 Smartphone Market in Numbers

Smartphone shipments and market share, Q1 2024. (IDC)

During the first quarter of 2024, Samsung shipped 60.1 million units, primarily driven by sales from its latest Galaxy S24 model. This device, notable for integrating advanced Galaxy artificial intelligence (AI) features, including chat assistance and live translation, has resonated well with consumers, pushing the total global smartphone shipments to 289.4 million units, a 7.8% increase from the previous year.

In contrast, Apple experienced a significant decline, with iPhone shipments falling by approximately 10% to 50.1 million units. This decrease is one of Apple’s steepest since the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating a shifting consumer preference in a highly competitive market.

This shift in winning smartphone manufacturers can be attributed to several market forces. The strong performance of Chinese brands such as Xiaomi and Transsion has partly fueled the overall growth in the smartphone market.

Regardless of where your loyalty lies, trends show that although Apple’s global shipments have declined, the entire smartphone sector is witnessing a rise in average selling prices and a more extended consumer holding period.

This trend suggests a maturing market where high-end devices are increasingly favored but retained for extended periods.

Can Apple Rediscover Its Innovative Spark with AI and New Devices?

Apple’s current challenge is revitalizing its product line and finding new growth avenues. After dumping its ambitious electric vehicle project, the company is exploring potential new markets like home robotics.

Elsewhere, a Reddit survey revealed that 12% of users who purchased the Apple Vision Pro headset have admitted that their $3,500 headset is now unused and gathering dust.

As anticipation builds for Apple’s WWDC 2024 event in June, rumors suggest that the tech giant will be desperately playing catchup and going all in on the AI everywhere trend.

In addition to embedding AI into the upcoming iOS 18 release, there is speculation that Apple will follow in Samsung’s footsteps by releasing a smart ring.

However, these revelations highlight that Apple’s innovative mojo has declined for the last decade and is following the lead of other market leaders. CEO Tim Cook is searching for the ‘next big thing’ that will secure his legacy. But the jury is out on whether this will be achieved with new devices and going all in on artificial intelligence in 2024.

Xiaomi, Transsion & Oppo: Chinese Smartphone Giants Capturing Global Market

It’s important to note that Samsung and Apple collectively hold under 40% of the global smartphone market share in Q1 2024 — Chinese companies like Xiaomi, Transsion, and Oppo dominate more than half of the market. This stat should be included in the battle of smartphone superiority articles.

Xiaomi’s shipments increased by 33.8% over the quarter, while Transsion, known for its affordability and market-specific features, witnessed a staggering 84.9% surge. These figures underline a significant shift in consumer preferences and suggest a growing dominance of Chinese manufacturers in the global smartphone arena.

The significance of these market dynamics becomes even more apparent when considering Apple’s recent challenges. A 10% drop in iPhone sales starkly contrasts with the robust expansion of Chinese brands. While headlines have focused on Samsung reclaiming the top spot from Apple, the underlying story is about the rapid ascent of Chinese smartphones.

The Future of Smartphones: Who Will Lead & Who Will Follow?

As we consider the current shifts in the smartphone market, a few key takeaways emerge. Firstly, the rise of Chinese brands like Xiaomi and Transsion illustrates a significant pivot towards affordability and market-specific innovations, potentially changing consumer preferences globally.

While Samsung appears to be regaining its lead, questions linger about the sustainability of its strategy to flood the market with diverse models, including new foldables. Are these trends indicative of a lasting change or merely a temporary surge in popularity?

As Apple looks to rebound by potentially incorporating AI and exploring new product arenas like intelligent wearables, it’s worth pondering whether these moves will restore its market position or if they’re playing catchup to more agile competitors.

Is Samsung’s current success the result of a well-executed market saturation strategy, and will innovative designs like flip phones and foldables become the norm — or just a fleeting trend?

Either way, this is much more than a two-horse race.

The Bottom Line

The battle for smartphone supremacy continues. Although Samsung and Apple are at the forefront, the growth of Chinese phones levels the playing field.

A 10% drop in iPhone sales is a big deal, but a 33.8% and 84.9% increase for Xiaomi and Transsion is arguably an even bigger news story.

However, the bigger question is how consumer expectations will evolve in response to the latest round of AI integrations and new features. The story of the smartphone continues…

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