Global smartphone shipments fell 3 percent annually from 345 million units in Q1 2015 to 334.6 million in Q1 2016, according to analyst Strategy Analytics. It is the first time ever in history the global smartphone market has shrunk on an annualized basis.
Smartphone growth is slowing due to increasing penetration maturity in major markets like China and consumer caution about the future of the world economy.
Samsung shipped 79.0 million smartphones worldwide in Q1 2016, dipping 4 percent annually from 82.7 million units in Q1 2015. Samsung maintained first position with 24 percent share for the quarter, broadly around the same level as a year ago. Samsung's new Galaxy S7 flagship and its popular J series models are helping to hold steady its smartphone leadership.
Apple fell 16 percent annually and shipped a disappointing 51.2 million smartphones worldwide in Q1 2016. Apple's global smartphone marketshare has softened from 18 percent to 15 percent in the past year. Apple is facing iPhone fatigue and pressure is mounting for Apple to innovate a new wow design beyond its standard rectangle form factor.
The company's performance in China - which has long been its growth engine - was unimpressive, with revenue from the region falling for the first time ever. However, in India - the world's second-largest smartphone market - Apple saw a whopping 58 percent increase in iPhone sales.
"The company views India as a really great opportunity," maintains Apple CEO Tim Cook. "We will begin to see some really good (high-speed internet) networks coming on in India. That will unleash the power and capability of the iPhone. I view India as where China was maybe seven to 10 years ago," he said.
Apple's growth in India has been far more tepid than its early years in China were. In 2011, just two years after Apple entered China, the company generated USD 12.7 billion from the country, which was about 11 percent of its annual revenue. But even almost 10 years after the iPhone was first launched in India, the country has remained marginal to Apple's global story.
India accounts for just about 1 percent of global iPhone sales in terms of both volume and revenues, according to market intelligence firm Counterpoint Research. Apple is estimated to sell 3 million iPhones in India this year, up from 2 million in 2015.
iPhone is the most aspirational smartphone in India. But can aspirations alone increase sales? This gap between aspirations and actual purchases has mostly been due to iPhone's pricing in the cost-sensitive Indian market. Almost 70 percent of the smartphone sales in India are in the under-USD 150 category. And prices of iPhones are among the highest in India compared to other countries.
Huawei maintained third position with 8 percent global smartphone marketshare in Q1 2016, up from 5 percent a year ago. Huawei grew 64 percent annually to ship an impressive 28.3 million smartphones worldwide in the quarter. Huawei is closing the gap on Apple, but Huawei itself is now being chased hard by ambitious rivals like OPPO and Vivo.
OPPO shipped 15.5 million smartphones and soared to fourth position with 5 percent global smartphone marketshare in Q1 2016. OPPO has been well known in the smartphone industry for several years, but it is finally breaking into the wider public consciousness with its popular range of 4G models like the R9 across Asia and elsewhere. Xiaomi maintained fifth place with 4 percent global smartphone marketshare in Q1 2016. Xiaomi remains under pressure from OPPO, Vivo, and others across Asia, while it is still very weak in North America and Western Europe and the vendor will need to target these regions more aggressively if it wants to catch Huawei and others in the future.