Apple, Samsung Battle for Smartphone Market Share

Consumer electronics giant Samsung lost the top spot to arch rival Apple in the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014, Gartner found.

samsung and apple smartphones

Worldwide sales of smartphones to end users had a record fourth quarter in 2014, reaching 367.5 million units, with an increase of 29.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

Consumer electronics giant Samsung lost the top spot to arch rival Apple in the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014—Samsung had been in the top spot since 2011.

Apple reported its best quarter ever in the fourth quarter of 2014, which saw it sell 74.8 million units and move to the top position in the global smartphone market.

Apple's first ever large-screen phones continued to see huge demand with sales in China and U.S., growing at 56 percent and 88 percent.

In 2014, sales of smartphones to end users totaled 1.2 billion units, up 28.4 percent from 2013 and represented two-thirds of global mobile phone sales.

"Samsung needs an ecosystem of apps and services exclusive to Samsung devices to bring long term sustainable differentiation and increased loyalty for Samsung phones to regain lost shares," Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner, told eWEEK.

Gupta explained this downward trend indicates that Samsung's share of profitable premium smartphone users has come under significant pressure, noting the company continues to struggle to control its falling smartphone share, which was at its highest in the third quarter of 2013.

Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled nearly 1.9 billion units in 2014, a 3.9 percent increase from the same period in 2013.

All regions recorded growth in 2014, except Japan and Western Europe, which recorded declines of 2.8 percent and 9.1 percent.

The availability of smartphones at lower prices accelerated the migration of feature phone users to smartphones pushing the smartphone operating system (OS) market to double-digit growth in most emerging countries, including India, Russia and Mexico.

Gupta noted emerging markets will remain growth drivers for smartphone sales, as migration from feature phones to smartphones is yet to happen in those markets.

"We haven't reached saturation in the smartphone sales yet," Gupta said. "There is room for growth at both premium and affordable phones."

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Lenovo, which includes sales of mobile phones by Lenovo and Motorola, moved to the third spot in the global smartphone market, reaching 6.6 percent market share and growing 47.6 percent year over year.

Lenovo's sales of mobile phones in its home market, China, grew 7.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. In addition, its strong mobile phone sales in Russia, India, Indonesia and Brazil in the fourth quarter of 2014 helped it grow by 26 percent in the global mobile phone market.

Gupta also noted expansion into markets beyond greater China and that building up the distribution channel in those markets helped Lenovo grow its shares.