Apple iPhone sales hit a major high point in November 2014, when the company marked 20 million global iPhone sales in one month for the first time ever. Adding to that success, the company also hit higher-than-expected iPhone sales in Japan and Korea, where new sales records were set for those regions.
Both Apple sales successes were reported Jan. 21 in a monthly Market Pulse report by Neil Shah, an analyst with Counterpoint Research. The figures showed a 26 percent annual global iPhone sales gain, fueled across key countries by the global roll out of Apple's flagship iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models starting last September. Also helping boost the figures were sales of the lower-priced iPhone 5s and 5c models, wrote Shah.
The company had particular successes in Japan, Korea and China, "where Apple registered a higher-than-expected demand for its newer and bigger display sporting iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models," wrote Shah. "Apple's iPhone market share soared and reached record levels in Japan and Korea markets. In Japan, one of the most premium smartphone markets in the world, Apple captured more than half of the smartphone sales in October as well as November. Japan has been one of the strongest markets for Apple, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for competition to challenge Apple's dominance in the near- to mid-term."
In Korea, "Apple captured a record one-third of the total smartphone sales in November," which was the first time that the company challenged rival Samsung's strong foothold in its home market, Shah wrote.
Counterpoint said its Monthly Market Pulse market share data is based on sales data reported by major mass retailers and distributors across 33 different national markets, as well as research and surveys conducted by Counterpoint analysts.
Shah wrote that Apple's record performance in China "helped propel Apple's smartphone market share to above 12 percent, capturing the third spot behind Lenovo and the market leader Xiaomi."
About two-thirds of those November sales were captured by the iPhone 6, he wrote, but with an improving supply of iPhone 6 Plus models, he believes that "iPhone 6 Plus sales will contribute to a greater proportion of the sales mix in December and during the Chinese holiday season in Q1 2015. Apple with iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has been able to impact Samsung's premium Galaxy S5 and Note 4 sales."
That could soon change with the launch of the Xiaomi Note and Note Pro smartphones, he wrote, as "it is going to be a fierce battle in the premium segment, with Samsung being attacked from both ends."
In the U.S. market, "iPhone demand remained relatively healthy compared to [the previous] year whereas in fast-growing smartphone market India, Apple [was] on track to sell almost a million units for the last three months of 2014," he wrote. Counterpoint estimates that "Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus momentum [continued] into December and help Apple register its best-ever iPhone quarter."
Another Counterpoint analyst, Peter Richardson, told eWEEK in an email response on Jan. 21 that "Apple has been very strong in Japan with the iPhone 5S, but the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has really given Apple a massive boost, taking its share to record levels. Since November, Sony is managing to fight back a little with the Xperia Z3, but the iPhone is still riding high."
In South Korea, consumers are big users of larger phablets, he wrote. "The older iPhones, while somewhat popular, were outgunned in the display department by bigger, better screens of rival products from Samsung and LG. However, the iPhone 6 and especially 6 Plus have directly addressed iPhone's hitherto major weakness. The result has been to effectively unleash demand for the new iPhone models. Share could have been higher were it not for constrained supply."
Apple's latest iPhones continue to sell well since their introduction in September 2014, with more Apple devices being purchased and activated as Christmas gifts, compared with other brands, according to recent figures from Flurry Analytics. Apple collected 51.3 percent of the Christmas Day device activations, compared with 17.7 percent for major competitor Samsung, according to Flurry.