Smartphone sales dip for the first time, with Huawei, Xiaomi bucking trend

Global smartphone sales Samsung smartphones Gartner report MWC 2018 Apple iPhones feature phones Huawei Apple iPhone X Xiaomi flagship devices

The Smartphone market has finally plateaued in growth, experiencing its first decline past year in Q4 2017, reports Gartner. It says almost 408 million smartphones were sold in the last quarter, registering a 5.6% decline over Q4 2016.

"Upgrades from feature phones to smartphones have slowed down due to a lack of quality "ultra-low-cost" smartphones and users preferring to buy quality feature phones", Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

"While demand for high-quality 4G connectivity and better camera features remained strong, high expectations and few incremental benefits during replacement weakened smartphone sales", Gupta said.

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The global smartphone market is shrinking for the first time as choosey buyers in emerging markets hang on to their mobiles for longer. Despite having three new smartphones - the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X - its performance in the quarter was overshadowed by late availability of the X as well as component shortages and manufacturing capacity constraints. Prices for the latest and greatest phones have actually increased at the same time U.S. carriers have gotten rid of subsidies. It reported in April 2016 that its iPhone unit sales fell for the first time ever, and they ended up declining for that full year. "We expect good demand for the iPhone X to likely bring a delayed sales boost for Apple in the first quarter of 2018", added Mr. Gupta.

Samsung leap-frogged Apple by virtue of its sales declining slower than the market average - Sammy's numbers were 3.6 per cent to 74.02 million units. The device is expected to feature tweaks but no major design overhaul.

Across 2017 as a whole, 1.5 billion smartphones were sold, up 2.7 percent on the previous year.

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While this 5.6 percent drop in sales is notable, it is not surprising. Huawei and Xiaomi (which doesn't rank in the top five) were the only smartphone vendors to see their unit sales grow in the quarter, Gartner said. Oppo went backwards in Q4 as sales slipped to 25.66 million from 26.7 million. The Korean company took an 18.2 percent share of sales, up from 17.8 percent in Q4 2016 when it tied with Apple.

Google's Android operating system has captured 86 percent of the market, according to the research firm, which is an increase of 1.1 percent year-on-year. Apple's iOS remained at about 14 percent.

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