Gartner: Smartphone sales declined for first time ever in Q4 2017

Kelley Robertson
February 24, 2018

The box counters at Gartner claim that the worldwide market experienced its first-ever quarterly sales dip since it started tracking smartphone sales more than a decade ago.

Although, Apple's market share stabilized in Q4, iPhone sales fell 5 percent.

In Gartner's Q4 sales stats, Samsung maintained a narrow lead in global volume shipments of smartphones - but every major (top five) vendor outside of those based in China saw unit shipments slip.

Anshul Gupta, Research Director at Gartner, said: "Two main factors led to the fall in the fourth quarter of 2017".

Gartner claims that this slump in sales comes due to fewer people switching their feature phones for smartphones "due to a lack of quality "ultra-low-cost" smartphones" and instead are buying nicer feature phones. The report also pointed out that users prefer to buy quality models and keep them for longer, bringing down that sales figures.

Although the new phone was Apple's biggest earner, it actually sold less units than any other iPhone model before it. That's because new-phone users tend to re-download their favorite and most-used apps, upgrade apps they haven't updated in a while, and try new apps, particularly those that take advantage of new technological capabilities in newer devices.

The market share of Samsung increased from 20.5 percent in 2016 to 20.9 percent in 2017.

In Q4 2016, smartphone sales topped out at about 432 million units sold. Second, component shortages ansd manufacturing capacity constraints preceded a long delivery cycle for the iPhone X, which returned to normal by early December 2017.

The two winners during this time period ended up being both Huawei as well as Xiaomi.

Xiaomi's competitive smartphone portfolio consists of its Mi and Redmi models, which helped accelerate its growth in the emerging Asia-Pacific (APAC) market, as well as its regained hold in the domestic market shares back in China.

Android retained its lead position in the smartphone operating system market at 86 percent, up 1.1 percent from 2016. iOS is a distant second at 14 percent, down 0.4 percent from previous year.

The story is different in the case of the annual smartphone sales worldwide where the overall smartphone sales have boosted since 2016. The other strategy of Xiaomi should be in increasing sales in Indonesia and other developing telecom markets in emerging APAC in order to position it as a strong global brand.

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