Apple Loses Smartphone Crown To Samsung Amidst China Pressure

Apple's retail store in Pudang, Shanghai. Image credit: Apple

Apple cedes top smartphone sales spot back to Samsung in first quarter as China sales see pressure from Huawei

Apple lost its crown as the world’s biggest smartphone vendor by unit sales in the first quarter, largely due to intense competition in China, a study from researcher IDC found.

The company saw its worldwide market share decline to 17.3 percent in the first three months of 2024, down from 20.7 percent a year earlier.

Apple shipped 50.1 million units in the quarter, down 9.6 percent from the 55.4 million it shipped in the same period a year earlier, IDC said.

The company for the first time outsold Samsung in the fourth quarter after the introduction of its latest iPhone model, the iPhone 15.

A Samsung store in Glendale, California. Image credit: Samsung
A Samsung store in Glendale, California. Image credit: Samsung

Smartphone resurgence

Samsung likewise saw negative growth in the January to March quarter, but its shipments were only 0.7 percent down to 60.1 million from 60.5 million, with 20.8 percenet market share.

Samsung introduced its latest flagship Galaxy S24 range at the beginning of the year.

The two companies’ declines were all the more striking in the context of a broader smartphone recovery that is “well underway”, IDC said, with overall shipments rising 7.8 percent year-on-year to 289.4 million units in the industry’s third consecutive quarter of shipment growth.

IDC noted pressure on Samsung and Apple at the high end from Huawei in China, as well as intense competition on mid-range and budget phones from Xiaomi, Transsion, OPPO/OnePlus and vivo.

Huawei's flagship store in Shanghai. Image credit: Huawei
Huawei’s flagship store in Shanghai. Image credit: Huawei

China pressure

“Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets,” said IDC analyst Nabila Popal.

“In contrast, while the Top 2 players both saw negative growth in the first quarter, it seems Samsung is in a stronger position overall than they were in recent quarters.”

In China Apple’s sales declined 24 percent year-on-year in the first six weeks of 2024, while Huawei saw a 64 percent increase – respectively the biggest decline and the biggest increase in that market, analysts Counterpoint said in March.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook arrived in Vietnam on Monday for a two-day tour as the company looks to expand both its consumer sales and its manufacturing base outside of China.