Counterpoint has released its latest report on the smartphone industry and it shows that Samsung's crown might be in danger. Even though the South Korean giant remained the top vendor in 2019 as a whole, it lost to Apple in Q4.
According to the firm's estimate, global shipments declined 1 percent year-over-year in 2019, which is an improvement over 2018's slump of 4 percent. Moreover, it seems like the market is already on the road to recovery. Counterpoint says that in Q4 2019, the industry grew 3 percent year-over-year.
Last year, we saw several innovations, including foldable screens, higher refresh rate displays, pinhole cameras, in-display fingerprint readers, and higher megapixel cameras. Some of these features even made to mid-tier handsets.
In fact, that apparently is the strategy most handset makers have adopted to boost sales. Apple, for instance, finally caved in 2019 and released the iPhone 11. The handset's starting price is lower than its predecessor's.
Additionally, as Counterpoint notes, the company is focusing more on services now. In Q4 2019, the iPhone maker managed to increase its market share. On the other hand, Samsung's growth remained flat during the quarter.
However, Samsung still remained the top vendor as far as yearly shipments are concerned, with a 2 percent year-over-year growth. The company's renewed emphasis on the A series is helping it increase market share in the mid-tier segment.
Surprisingly, Huawei outpaced Apple to become the second-largest manufacturer in 2019. That's pretty impressive, given the fact that the Chinese company has been blacklisted by the U.S.
As a result, the vendor has increased its focus in its home country of China, where it captured a market share of 40 percent. Outside the country, the company is trying to maintain momentum by selling older devices.
Counterpoint: Xiaomi and Realme Grew Considerably In Q4 2019
Partially because of fierce competition from Huawei, rival Chinese companies are expanding into new markets, especially Europe.
Xiaomi and OPPO were the fourth and fifth largest vendors respectively in Q4 2019. The former grew its shipments 28 percent year-over-year in Q4 2019, and it was India's most popular brand the entire year.
Realme made substantial gains and continued to be the fastest-growing company during Q4 2019. It did really well in India, where it remained one of the most popular models throughout the year.
2019 was also the year when the first 5G-handsets came out. Huawei sold 6.9 million 5G phones during the year, while Samsung shipped 6.5 million units. Overall, 5G phones only accounted for 1 percent of global smartphone sales.
As many vendors have committed to releasing affordable 5G capable handsets in the future, demand will likely increase further. According to Counterpoint, 5G phones will account for 18 percent of global shipments in 2020.
Although there is room for growth because of new form factors and the next generation of mobile networks, vendors will also have to deal with supply-side uncertainties. Counterpoint notes that tensions between the U.S. and Huawei, and Japan and Korea, have impacted the memory market.
Due to supply chain disruptions, many companies are considering self-sufficiency and dual sourcing. In 2020, we will likely see vendors take more steps to mitigate risks.