China was top for shipments, though the company did not provide figures for either the US or China. Later, in response to a query, Counterpoint research analyst Varun Mishra told iTWire that US shipments for 2019 were 153 million units while China was a long way ahead in top spot, with 395 million units shipped.
Most of the growth that led to these figures was achieved in the final quarter of the year. Growth was mostly in the mid-tier segments where Chinese brands introduced many flagship-grade features and attracted users who were migrating from their first or second smartphones.
Among the pricier brands, Apple recorded good growth for the fourth quarter, due to the price cuts on its XR device which was manufactured locally.
Counterpoint attributed this to a slowdown in new shipments from Reliance Jio.
"However, the players such as itel, Lava, Nokia and Micromax registered positive annual growth despite the overall segment decline. In fact, itel emerged as the number one feature phone brand in Q4 2019 followed by Samsung and Lava," the company added.
The research note concentrated on Indian shipments, pointing out that Xiaomi stayed on top for the second successive year, with 28% of the market, the same as in 2018. The fastest growing brands on an annual basis were realme (255%), vivo (76%), ASUS (67%), and OnePlus (29%). The top five brands made up about 84% of national shipments, the highest level reached.
Samsung was the one non-Chinese brand which retained a decent part of the market, though its share fell from 24% for calendar year 2018 to 21% last year.
"Although the rate of growth for the smartphone market was only [in] single digits for the first time on an annual basis, India is under-penetrated relative to many other markets, [with] 4G penetration among subscribers being around 55%," said Counterpoint Research associate director Tarun Pathak.
"Going forward, we expect this demand to grow further due to the ongoing transition from feature phones to smartphones and progressive diffusion of key smartphone features to the entry-level price tier as a result of hyper-competition among multiple players.
"We further expect brands to have multi-tier strategies involving partnerships in the mobile ecosystem from hardware, software and services, thus creating opportunities within different segments like entertainment, gaming, financial services and more."