- Smartphone shipments fell in 2018, according to the Resarch Counterpart.
- This is the first time smartphone shipments have dropped for a full year.
- Huawei and Xiaomi were the only brands among the top five to have substantial growth.
Smartphone shipments have been dropping for several quarters, according to several industry trackers. Counterpoint Research has now confirmed shipments declined by four percent in 2018.
This marks the first time shipments have fallen for a full year, according to Tarun Pathak, associate director of the tracking company. It is also the fifth consecutive quarter of a decline in smartphone shipments, Counterpoint noted.
Pathak attributed the slowdown due to longer replacement cycles in the US, China and Europe. The analyst added that higher prices and the lack of innovative innovations were the reasons why people kept their devices longer.
Who were the great winners and losers?
Samsung led the way in 2018, sending 291.8 million smartphones last year. But that's down eight percent year on year, according to Counterpoint. Apple shipped 206.3 million phones in 2018, down 4 percent. The research firm attributed the fall of Apple and Samsung to competition from "affordable and more advanced smartphones," such as Huawei and OnePlus.
Speaking of Huawei, it delivered 205.3 million smartphones last year, a year-on-year jump of 34 percent. Fourth-placed Xiaomi was the other major producer in 2018, growing 26% to ship 121 million smartphones. Oppo completed the top five, remaining virtually unchanged from the previous year. Check the chart below for the full summary.
There were several other notable results in the top ten, as LG and Lenovo saw sales fall 26% and 23%, respectively. HMD Global and Tecno, on the other hand, posted year-on-year growth of 126% and 32%, respectively. The first was only in the second year of operations, so it's starting from a low base. But there is still a long way to go before Nokia phones are threatening Lenovo and LG.
The global annual decline also comes amid a slowdown in China, which still accounted for almost a third of smartphone shipments last year. That decline forced Chinese brands to seek further growth, according to Counterpoint. But emerging markets have failed to offset the effects of China's slowing market, he noted. Still, the tracking company said that Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi have several opportunities to grow this year, thanks to expansion into new regions.
Analyzing smartphone shipments for the fourth quarter of 2018, Counterpoint numbers show some interesting trends compared to the year round. The notable losers in this quarter were Apple and Xiaomi, each seeing a 15% drop. Apple's fall, in particular, reflects its confirmation of falling iPhone sales. But it is the decline of Xiaomi that seems to be more disconcerting. In any case, Huawei (46%), Vivo (13%) and Alcatel (47%) made big gains this quarter. You can check the full picture below.
Despite the disgrace and gloom, mobile device makers seem to be betting on 5G connectivity and folding phones. We expect to see these devices at MWC 2019 in Barcelona next month. But with the first wave of 5G and folding phones slanted to be quite expensive, could we be in another rocky year?
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