Samsung, Apple Continue to Lead Worldwide Smartphone Market

Samsung's devices and the iPhone remain the big players in the worldwide smartphone market, but there is intense competition in emerging territories.

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The worldwide smartphone market grew 23.1 percent year over year in the second quarter of 2014, establishing a new single quarter record of 295.3 million shipments, according to a report from IT research firm IDC.

Strong demand overall provided a boost for the majority of handset manufacturers, while emerging markets supported by local vendors continued to act as the main catalyst for smartphone growth.

Apple enjoyed continued success in the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) market, a sign that it is building its footprint in emerging markets, though on a quarterly basis this was Apple's weakest, due in part to consumers waiting for the release of the iPhone 6, expected early in the fall.

As of the second quarter, Apple holds a smartphone market share of 11.9 percent, down from 13 percent in the same period last year. The company shipped 35.1 million iPhones in 2Q14, IDC reported.

This makes the launch of the new iPhone, which will reportedly be available in two screen sizes, all the more important, Ramon Llamas, IDC's research manager for smartphones and mobile phones, told eWEEK.

"On a scale from 1 to 10, it's an 11," he explained. "The iPhone C wasn't exactly a dud, but it didn't really shake things up either. Now with talk of a larger screen, Apple's finally getting into the large-screen mix, which is good."

Archrival Samsung shipped millions of units of its Galaxy S5 in the quarter, while S4 and even S3 volumes remained strong as more affordable alternatives.

However, collectively Samsung lost 7 percent market share compared with a year ago, despite its size in the market, advertising budget and high-profile marketing campaigns.

The company still holds a commanding lead on the worldwide market with a 25.2 percent market share. Samsung shipped 74.3 million smartphones in 2Q14.

Llamas noted there are three reasons Samsung is struggling: sales challenges in the sub-$100, ultra-low end of the market; a continued lukewarm reception to the Galaxy S5; and competitive pressure from other high-end vendors such as HTC and LG.

The report noted that second-quarter shipments were in line with IDC's forecast, and all expectations are that the market will continue apace in the second half of the year and will surpass 300 million units for the first time ever in a single quarter in 3Q14.

Among the other vendors in the market, a wide range of Chinese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) more than outpaced the market in 2Q14.

Huawei, which nearly doubled its shipments from a year ago, was followed by another strong performance from Lenovo, which had a record quarter in China despite intense pressure from local brands.

While less than 5 percent of Lenovo's shipments were registered outside of China in the second quarter of 2013, this share nearly tripled in 2Q14, with emerging markets, particularly BRIC countries, picking up the largest volumes.

Llamas said Gartner expects to see continued growth of the low-cost smartphone market, particularly in emerging territories like the BRIC market.

"That's where most of the double-digit growth is expected to happen," he said. "There are lots of customers yet to be connected, and lots of customers leading to constant upgrades."

Among the OEMs, Llamas said that, particularly in emerging markets, look to the smaller and local vendors to grab mindshare and market share, which will put pressure on the global vendors to firmly establish themselves in country.