Global Smartphone Market Posts Record Q3, Apple Underperforms

Apple grew at nearly half the rate of the smartphone industry average during the third quarter, according to Strategy Analytics.

The global smartphone market achieved a quarterly first during the third quarter, exceeding a quarter-billion units for the first time, Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics' Global Wireless Practice wrote in an Oct. 28 blog post.

The smartphone market grew 45 percent annually, shipping 251 million units.

"The smartphone industry's robust growth is being driven by strong demand for LTE models in developed regions like the United States and 3G devices in emerging markets such as China," wrote Mawston.

Samsung was again the market leader, pushing its market share past the one-third mark to 35 percent, on shipments of 88.4 million units. While shipments of the flagship Galaxy S 4 softened, "solid demand for the new Note 3 phablet and for mass-market devices like the Galaxy Y helped lift Samsung's volumes," wrote Mawston.

Apple finished in second place, shipping 33.8 million iPhones during the quarter and grabbing 26.9 percent of the global market share.

Apple grew just 26 percent annually during the quarter, which was only about half the overall smartphone industry average, Mawston pointed out.

"Apple's global smartphone market share has dipped noticeably from 16 percent to 13 percent during the past year," Mawston continued. "Nonetheless, we expect Apple to rebound sharply and regain share in the upcoming fourth quarter of 2013 due to high demand for its new iPhone 5S model."

During Apple's Oct. 28 quarterly earnings call, the company shared that iPad sales were flat during the last quarter and Mac sales were down 300,000 units. Apple brought in $7.5 billion of profit on $37.5 billion of revenues. (This is compared with $8.2 billion and $36 billion a year earlier. Apple's stock price fell in after-hours trading.)

A star of the quarter was Huawei, which overtook LG Electronics as the third-place finisher. Huawei's shipments grew 67 percent annually to 12.7 million units, up from 7.6 million a year ago.

Huawei is "very strong" in its home market of China, said Mawston, but if it's to move up another rung, it will need to "expand aggressively" in the United States and Europe.

In the U.S., growth may also mean overcoming slights to its reputation. (The U.S. government has warned businesses involved in critical architecture to avoid using Huawei's telecom equipment.)

LG finished just behind Huawei, with shipments of 12 million smartphones for a 4.8 percent share of the market, compared with Huawei's 5.1 percent.

Fifth-place Lenovo—a mass-market favorite in China—shipped 10.8 million units, up from 6.4 million a year ago.

Juniper Research, in an Oct. 29 research statement, says not to forget Nokia, the onetime market leader that's beginning to reassert itself.

"Nokia shipped a record 8.8 million Lumia devices and nearly 6 million Asha smartphones in Q3 2013, together exceeding LG for the second time this year," said Juniper analysts."

(Strategy Analytics, pointing out that Nokia lists the Asha in the Mobile Phones category of its earnings statement, only counts Lumia sales—8.8 million—as smartphone sales.)

Pointing to Samsung and Apple, Juniper analysts added, "These top-end players are expected to continue to witness impressive growth next quarter due to seasonality; however, Juniper expects a steady decline in growth thereafter, especially in maturing markets."

Differentiation, they said, will be "vital" to their continued success. Plus, "the strategies used to achieve differentiation need to be different for maturing and emerging markets," said Juniper.