Global sales of smartphones to end-users in the fourth quarter of 2017 totaled about 450 million units. This shows an estimated eight percent increase over the last quarter of 2016. In overall, the sales of smartphones in 2017 totaled 1.5 billion units (Kim, 2017). This was an increase of six percent from the previous year. Ten years ago, the hottest names in phones were Blackberry and Nokia. This fact was overhauled by the launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 (Kim, 2017). During this period, Nokia and BlackBerry were seen as the standard bearers of smartphones while Apple and Samsung remained daring upstarts. However, since the launch of iPhone, Blackberry (RIM) and Nokia (Symbian) have suffered a constant decrease in their global market share as opposed to Apple and Samsung which continue to lead the smartphone world.
General Trend in Smartphone sales (iOS-iPhones, Symbian-Nokia, Android-mostly comprised of Samsung)
Fig1. Trend in sales of Smartphones since 2007 to 2017
Global sales of smartphones to end users in the fourth quarter of 2017 totaled to about 450 million units. This shows an estimated eight percent increase over the last quarter of 2016. In overall, the sales of smartphones in 2017 totaled 1.5 billion units (Kim, 2017). This was an increase of six percent from the previous year. Ten years ago, the hottest names in phones were Blackberry and Nokia. This fact was overhauled by the launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 (Kim, 2017). During this period, Nokia and BlackBerry were seen as the standard bearers of smartphones while Apple and Samsung remained daring upstarts. However, since the launch of iPhone, Blackberry (RIM) and Nokia (Symbian) have suffered a constant decrease in their global market share as opposed to Apple and Samsung which continue to lead the smartphone world.
Fig2. Showing the increasing influence of Samsung and Apple in smartphone world
Apple seems to be fighting a tough battle to recapture its position as the world's top seller of the smartphone. Lately, Samsung has focused on selling a variety of smartphones that cover all budget levels. This is evident from the fact that the company sold high-end Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 while launching cheaper devices, for instance, Galaxy J (Bajaj, 2017). Apple on the hand sold only iPhones in 2017 with iPhone X being its flagship model.
Apple was the global leader in smartphone's market share in the last quarter of 2016, with an approximately 20.3 percent followed by Samsung at position two with 18.5 percent. However, Apple experienced a little downturn in 2017 with its iPhone volume hitting 77.3 million units in its fourth quarter after a constant decline of 1.3 percent (Giachetti, 2018). Nevertheless, the volume was high enough to place Apple as the leader in smartphone global market share in that fourth quarter period. The increase in sales was attributed to the launch of iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus (Giachetti, 2018). The company continues to show the world that having numerous models at various prices bridges smartphone owners to its iOS. The overall iPhone lineup that Apple launched appealed to a wider range of consumers from both developing and developed markets. In overall, Apple finished second last year shipping approximately 215.8 million units as compared to 215.4 million units in 2016 (Giachetti, 2018).
For 2017, Samsung remained the overall leader in smartphone's market share despite losing its position to Apple in the last quarter. Samsung sold about 317.3 million units as compared to 311.4 million units in 2016, indicating an annual sales growth of 1.9 percent (Bajaj, 2017). The endless collective pressures that Samsung faces from Apple and its Chinese players in addition to the disastrous failure of its Note 7 have slimmed the chance of the Company remaining the world's leader in smartphone sales. The arrival of the company's next flagship, the Galaxy S9 may act as its best chance to win both the current and new customers for its products throughout 2018.
Moving ahead there is the likelihood of Apple stealing some portion of the market share. This is expected due to the company's expansion into Indian market which will expand the consumer base for its products. Samsung is predicted to expect some troubles in 2018. Specifically, its shipments face at least a five percent decline as compared to the previous year. On the budget side of the market, Samsung still stands a chance of performing excellently. However, in mature markets where competition is fierce, the company risks getting hit at higher-end sales. Nevertheless, with over three hundred million units that Samsung is expected to ship in 2018, it will still remain the global market share leader in smartphones (Hartley, 2017).
Ten years after Apple launched its iPhone, the industry of smartphone has ever since upended the whole smartphone industry. This invention has since wiped out the major predecessors of a smartphone, one of them being Blackberry (West & Mace, 2010). By 2017, Blackberry had fallen to a rounded 0.0 percent of the total global market share for smartphones. Last year, the company only shipped slightly over two hundred thousand phones in the last quarter. This followed an ever declining trend from the peak of Blackberry's global market share in 2009, which stood at 20 percent (Kim, 2017).
Fig 3. Showing the constant decline in the sales of BlackBerry since 2009
The decline in the production of Blackberry, which was once the biggest Canadian innovation, has been long forthcoming. The company ended up selling its global rights to the future BlackBerry branded phones to TCL Communication, a Chinese Company. Currently, BlackBerry Company focusses on software development. After the launch of iPhones in 2007, BlackBerry continued to grow for at least two years surpassing the then global leader Nokia. However, Nokia and Blackberry (RIM) has ever since been sidelined and beaten into submissions by Apple and Samsung in their attempt to come back into the world's smartphone affairs (Kim, 2017) Nokia's come back into the world of the smartphone has thus been a fairy tale story with no foreseeable possibility.
Fig4. Showing how impressive Nokia and BlackBerry sold before 2009
The 2017 report by the Internet Data Company (IDC) indicates that Nokia, through HMD Global recorded yearly growth that exceeds fifty percent since 2016. This places Nokia at a better place since most of its competitors have continued to record negative year on year growth. By the end of 2017, Nokia was ranked at position eight in the top ten manufacturers' list. HMD is estimated to have sold 20.8 million phones in the third quarter of 2017, as compared to 12.1 million phones in the first quarter of the same year (Giachetti, 2018).
The fourth quarter of 2017 saw Android-powered Nokia smartphones sell 4.1 million units around the globe (Giachetti, 2018). This indicates that Nokia HMD captured one percent of the global market share for smartphones in that quarter. The brands' sentimental values among customers and dealers are helping Nokia to have a year on year gain of the market share since the first quarter of 2017. The expansion of the brand's volume has been attributed to the targeting of multiple price categories to serve a variety of customer bases.
Conclusively, Samsung and Apple will continue to be the world's leaders in smartphone sales for the foreseeable future. BlackBerry, on the other hand, risks experiencing a constant reduction in its sales growth. Notably, Nokia, through the incorporation of Android as its new operating system, presents a promising future in terms of sales volumes.
Bajaj, A. (2017). A Study on Market Segmentation of Samsung Electronics Ltd. With special References to Mobile Phones. International Journal of Advance Research, Ideas and Innovations in Technology, 3(5), 367-3s72.
Giachetti, C. (2018). Explaining Apple's iPhone Success in the Mobile Phone Industry: The Creation of a New Market Space. In Smartphone Start-ups (pp. 9-48). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Giachetti, C. (2018). Vertu: An Internal Nokia Start-up Creating the Luxury Mobile Phone Industry. In Smartphone Start-ups (pp. 113-136). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Hartley, S. (2017). The case of the exploding Samsung phones. Busidate, 25(1), 9.
Kim, J. K. (2017). Strategy Scenario Selection in the Competition of Mobile Ecosystems. 18(3), 217-229.
West, J., & Mace, M. (2010). Browsing as the killer app: Explaining the rapid success of Apple's iPhone. Telecommunications Policy, 34(5-6), 270-286.
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