Home Mobility Gartner: Q4 2016 smartphone sales growth up 7% as Apple regains No.1 spot

Gartner: Q4 2016 smartphone sales growth up 7% as Apple regains No.1 spot

It is the "closest quarter ever between Samsung and Apple" as Apple regains the top global smartphone sales spot after eight quarters, with the added bonus of global sales growing by 7%.

Well known IT and research company Gartner has just released its latest figures on smartphone sales, and the news is very interesting.

We are told that "global sales of smartphones to end users totalled 432 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 7% increase over the fourth quarter of 2015", with the fourth quarter of 2016 also seeing "Apple leapfrog past Samsung to secure the No. 1 global smartphone vendor position (see Table 1 below)".

That’s the Q4 figure – when it comes to 2016 overall, Gartner advises that "smartphone sales to end users totalled nearly 1.5 billion units, an increase of 5% from 2015 (see Table 2 below)".

Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, said: "This is the second consecutive quarter in which Samsung has delivered falling quarterly smartphone sales. Samsung's smartphone sales declined 8% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and its share dropped by 2.9% year on year.

"Samsung's smartphone sales started to drop in the third quarter of 2016, and the decision to discontinue the Galaxy Note7 slowed down sales of its smartphone portfolio in the fourth quarter.

"The withdrawal of the Galaxy Note7 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’

Gartner notes that 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".

Gupta explained: “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.

"This time it achieved it thanks to strong sales of its flagship phones – the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus; it also benefitted 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.”

Gart Q4 16 table 1

‘Top Chinese smartphone vendors grew share by 7 percentage points in fourth quarter of 2016’

Gartner notes that "Huawei, Oppo and BBK accounted for 21.3% of smartphones sold to end users worldwide during the fourth quarter of 2016, an increase of 7.3% points year-on-year."


Gupta said: “Huawei introduced Mate 9 during the quarter — within a month of Samsung discontinuing the Galaxy Note 7 — which was good timing to position it as an alternative.”

Gartner explains that, "Huawei's premium smartphone offering has helped it to reduce the gap with Samsung during the fourth quarter of 2016, with a difference of 36 million units. In the same period last year, the gap between the two vendors was more than 50 million units".

Gupta said: ”Huawei is poised to reduce the gap further with the No. 2 global smartphone vendor. Mate 9 with Alexa will start shipping into the US in the first quarter of 2017."

What about Oppo?

Gartner: "Offering high-performance, front-facing cameras and fast charging smartphones led Oppo to maintain the No. 1 position in China during the fourth quarter of 2016. Its strong position in China and continued growth of sales in the markets outside China have helped Oppo position itself as the No. 4 smartphone vendor worldwide."

And BBK?

We are told that BBK’s "focus on quality, design and strong branding initiatives has positioned it as a strong mobile phone brand in China and India. BBK continued its hold on the No. 2 position in China and was marginally ahead of Huawei during the fourth quarter of 2016. BBK's strong performance in India, where its sales grew by 278% in the fourth quarter of 2016, and more than 363% in 2016 overall, allowed it to emerge as the No. 5 smartphone vendor worldwide."

Gartner says that "top Chinese brands such as Oppo, BBK, Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi and Lenovo are aggressively expanding into markets outside China, where they will continue to disrupt the top smartphone players in 2017".

Gupta adds: “Samsung needs to successfully launch the next Galaxy flagship phone in order to continue the momentum Galaxy S7 generated, and win back lost customers by launching a new large screen and stylus-equipped smartphone.”

Gart Q4 16 table 2

In the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Gartner said "Google's Android extended its lead by capturing 82% of the total market in the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 3 below)."

In 2016 overall, Android also grew its market share by 3.2% to reach 84.8%, and was the only OS to grow market share year on year.’

Gupta concludes, stating: "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.”

Gart Q4 16 table 3

Further information is available in Gartner’s report entitled "Market Share: Final PCs, Ultramobiles and Mobile Phones, All Countries, 4Q16,” which as always is on sale to relevant parties at relevant prices.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.