The worldwide smartphone market continued to weaken in the first quarter of 2018, with shipments down 3.4% on the same period in 2017 at 337 million units. A 21% year-on-year decline in the world’s largest market, China, has dragged the global market into the red, with growth in markets such as India and Africa unable to offset the fall. Samsung retook first place in the overall smartphone league table, displacing Apple, which led in Q4 2017, while Chinese vendors Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo maintained their respective third, fourth and fifth positions.
“There have been no signs of recovery since the market started to decline in Q4 last year,” said Rushabh Doshi, Research Manager at Canalys. “The high level of pessimism about China’s smartphone market and its impact beyond China is concerning. In highly saturated markets, such as the US, China and Western Europe, a lack of innovation has led to a lack of consumer demand, and growth will be hard to find in 2018. On the other hand, in high-growth markets, such as India and Brazil, vendors are struggling with low margins. It is not surprising to see top vendors growing share at the expense of smaller vendors as the market slows and survival gets tougher.”
Xiaomi provided the only bright spot among the top 10 smartphone vendors, recording triple-digit percentage growth this quarter. “Xiaomi has done a great job recovering its position in its home market,” said Canalys Senior Director Nicole Peng. “While China has been a growth engine and profit driver for Xiaomi’s rising service revenue, overseas market expansion has helped it boost market share, both of which will be critical to the success of its IPO.” Of Xiaomi’s 28.1 million shipments in Q1, close to 57% shipped outside of China. “It is important to note that Xiaomi’s rapid expansion will bring with it substantial overheads, which will make sustaining its original lightweight cost structure increasingly difficult.”
Apple grew iPhone shipments by 3% year on year by maintaining its shipment strength in its key markets, the US and China. US shipments were up 8% year on year at 16.7 million, while China was relatively flat at 9.3 million, down just 0.6% annually. “Apple’s portfolio strategy continues to bear fruit,” said Peng. “While the iPhone X performed below industry expectations (see Canalys media alert), the company’s revamped product portfolio has helped as it has largely reduced the risk of overreliance on one or two devices to generate sales. More importantly, in a market as complex as China, where international brands are finding it tough to combat native vendors in terms of volume, Apple has been beating local players by growing its ASP and building out other revenue streams from the Mac, App Store and accessories, effectively capitalizing on its deep-pocketed installed base.”