The number of smartphone shipments fell worldwide by 6-percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2018 to land at 355.2 million units shipped compared to last year, according to the most recent report from global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC). Meanwhile, of the top five companies listed by IDC, only Chinese manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi managed to make considerable headway. The former company shipped a total of 52 million units compared to Xiaomi's 34.3 million units, with the two companies seeing gains of 32.9-percent and 21.2-percent respectively. That's in spite of the fact that mobile consumption is actually down in the two companies' home region by as much as 11-percent, marking the sixth consecutive quarterly drop in the figure. Apple's smartphone shipments, by comparison, only rose by approximately one-half of a percent to 46.9 year-over-year. Samsung's smartphone business, on the other hand, saw a reduction of 13.4-percent in terms of shipments this year and OPPO's shipments fell by 2.1-percent.
Background: In terms of smartphone shipments, this actually marks the fourth reported year-over-year decline consecutively. However, the position held by the top companies hasn't necessarily changed by much despite the aforementioned figures. Samsung has maintained its position at the top, for starters, and was recently shown in its third quarter report to be doing very well overall. The Korean tech giant's memory division is playing a huge role in that but IDC indicates its placement as the top mover of Android handsets primarily comes down to its recently launched Samsung Galaxy Note 9 phablet sales. At the same time, the company is quickly losing ground on two related fronts. With competitors such as Huawei and Xiaomi, among others, releasing a range of new budget-friendly options, Samsung's reduced shipments have primarily been in the upper end of the market. Samsung may have an answer to that with its recently launched Samsung Galaxy J2 Core. That's not only being sold in Asian markets but also expected to land in the US in the near future after being spotted at the FCC and Wi-Fi Alliance.
Huawei and Xiaomi, on the other hand, have launched a consistent string of high-quality devices for effectively every niche of the market. The former of those companies also now sits above Apple in the ranking for the second straight quarter in terms of shipments. Apple has faced a growing threat from Xiaomi as well. While the company didn't reach nearly the same heights as the latest iPhones in terms of shipments, it did manage to hit a new all-time high in terms of quarterly market share as well, landing at 9.7-percent. So competition in the space has consistently grown even as smartphone shipments have fallen.
Impact: IDC does expect the overall slump in sales to come to an end, with positive growth returning by the end of 2019. The slowing of sales in the Chinese market is predicted to fall off in conjunction with that shift. Bearing in mind that there are no guarantees that any of the incoming devices will necessarily be a success and that the smartphone market has always been somewhat volatile, a return to growth could easily cause a reasonable amount of disruption in the current ranking.