IDC and Strategy Analytics released their latest smartphone shipment figures, and the big winner in recent months has been China’s Huawei, at the expense of incumbent global leaders Samsung and Apple, which both lost ground.
Huawei has been flirting with the position of the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor for some time, having first taken over from Apple in 2017, before going back and forth in 2018. The company’s improvement in 2019 however, seems to define it. with tighter control of second place: Huawei went from 39.3 million phones shipped in Q1 2018 to 59.1 million shipments in Q1 2019, as noted by the two IDC and his.
Apple’s iPhone shipments fell from 52.2 million in last year’s quarter to an estimated 36-43 million (Apple recently stopped reporting iPhone sales in its reports on results) for the same period this year. Samsung went from 78.2 million shipments to 71.9 million. In fact, without Huawei’s booming growth, the smartphone market could rightly be described as experiencing its own form of recession. US carriers AT&T and Verizon reported last week that smartphone upgrades among their subscribers were at record highs, and other Chinese phone makers like Xiaomi and Oppo are mostly holding their own with their sales figures.
Other global brands that had a significant presence in the phone market are also suffering. Sony’s sales continue to decline and the company has said it intends to halve the workforce working on its mobile activity. Last week, LG stopped making phones in its home country of South Korea, opting to cut costs by moving production to Vietnam. And HTC is technically still in the mobile business only by producing this goofy blockchain phone.
Huawei is the exception, and in more ways than one. The company has been very publicly rejected by the United States government, and it has no presence in this very lucrative and developed market. All of its progress over the past year has been made in its home territory of China and through the successful expansion of its business in Europe.
Over the past couple of years, which has been a time when Apple and Samsung have stuck to mostly iterative updates, Huawei has consistently made huge strides between each device release. The company has invested heavily in its camera hardware, which has paid off with stellar performance (currently unmatched in low light) and has smartphone owners pushing the “upgrade” button.
Huawei’s goal has always been to become the world’s leading smartphone vendor, which seemed like overzealous optimism just a few months ago. As of today, it seems closer to a fatality. Huawei expects it to overtake Samsung by the end of this year, and if its aggressive rate of improvement continues, there’s little reason to doubt it’s capable of hitting that lofty target.