Global smartphone sales declined for the first time ever in the fourth quarter of 2017, a new study conducted by Gartner shows. Over the three-month period ending December 31, contemporary handset sales fell to under 408 million, a 5.6-percent decline year-on-year. The report is in line with recent studies suggesting handset shipments stagnated in the final quarter of 2017, presumably because retailers had trouble moving their stock. While the growth of the mobile industry seemingly slowed down over the course of the last year, many device vendors still increased their revenues, according to some industry trackers.
Gartner Research Director Anshul Gupta attributed the newly observed trend to a lack of good "ultra-low-cost" smartphones that would convince feature phone users to make their first foray into a market segment that essentially comes down to Android-powered products. Consumers in countries like India where such products are still popular prefer to buy high-quality feature phones instead of low-end smartphones, according to the industry veteran. Existing owners of smartphones also aren't upgrading their devices as often as they used to because they're more pleased with the overall experience provided by their current pocket companions which are capable of lasting for much longer than their predecessors did, Mr. Gupta believes. Original equipment manufacturers themselves are partially to blame for the current trend as they failed to offer much more than incremental upgrades over the course of 2017, whereas consumer expectations kept rising, Gartner's official said.
Samsung managed to sell over 74 million smartphones to consumers in the final quarter of 2017, with Apple selling more than 73 million units during the same period, according to the new study. Third-placed Huawei had nearly 44 million of its new devices end up in the hands of consumers and was followed by Xiaomi and OPPO who sold approximately 28.1 million and 25.6 million handsets, respectively. Every other OEM combined sold fewer than 163 million smartphones in Q4 2017 which amounts to less than 40-percent of the market in total, the research reveals. Xiaomi and Huawei were the only two OEMs to experience annual growth during the observed period, with the world's third largest smartphone vendor increasing its sales by 7.6-percent, while Xiaomi's sell-through rate boomed by 79 percentage points compared to Q4 2017, according to the study.