What a wild ride it is this year for the smartphone industry according to research firm TrendForce that claims we are finally beginning to see that dreaded 'plateau' in smartphone sales. It had to happen, it every product eventually reaches a limit when the market is simply flooded with a device – radios, TV's, PCs and now smartphones. There was a growth of 26.5-percent in 2014 and right now in 2015, we are looking at a growth rate of only 8.2 – 11.6-percent. Shipments did grow in the second quarter by 1.9-percent (304M units) over the first quarter, but that was to be expected because of the new models released. Chinese smartphones benefited during this period with the Chinese Labor Day sales and increased penetration in their overseas markets with an above average global increase of 15.6-percent and 126M units shipped.
Although the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge helped Samsung take the lead with a second quarter growth of 26.8-percent, their annual shipment forecasts are marked down to only 45 million devices this year. With the Chinese attacking the low-mid-range market, Samsung's remaining year will hinge on the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+. If these devices are upgraded with enough specs and improved features, it could prevent Samsung from seeing a negative shipment growth this year.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus had remarkably strong sales – most likely caused by the larger displays – and despite no change in looks, the second generation iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are expected to have strong sales because of a new A9 processor, 2GB of DDR4 RAM, as well as the rumored 12MP camera. Because of that, TrendForce is predicting a growth of 15-percent or more. On the opposite end is LG and the fallen expectations of their new G4 smartphone – it just did not excite buyers enough like the G3 with its 2K display and 3GB of memory. TrendForce has them shipping 8-percent less than originally expected…much like the HTC One M9, where customers did not see any real upgrade.
In the Chinese arena, Huawei is the number one smartphone by brand and had a annual growth rate of almost 40-percent and is predicted to be the first Chinese manufacturer to reach 100 million units this year. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Lenovo, who has fallen to number 6 in global shipments. Many thought that their numbers would double with their 2014 purchase of Motorola, but they have not had a well-defined product line, while facing fierce competition from other low-end smartphones. We expected much more from Lenovo, but until they can define where they stand, they are just stumbling around looking for direction.
Xiaomi is far from its targeted goal of 100 million smartphones shipped in 2015 – TrendForce predicts about a 15-percent growth this year and about 70 million units shipped. Their first really premium smartphone, the Mi Note, suffered from the overheating problem brought on by the Snapdragon 810 chipset and other competitors in the low-end range have reduced Xiaomi's market share in what was once their domain. OPPO, who concentrates on camera smartphones and VIVO, who specialize in a great music listening experience, should both see their 2015 shipments 30-percent more than 2014.