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Fierce Battle Between Apple and Samsung to Hold the No. 1 Global Smartphone Ranking

Egham, UK, 15th February, 2017 — Global sales of smartphones to end users totalled 432 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 7 per cent increase over the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Gartner, Inc. The fourth quarter of 2016 saw Apple leapfrog past Samsung to secure the No. 1 global smartphone vendor position (see Table 1).

In 2016 overall, smartphone sales to end users totalled nearly 1.5 billion units, an increase of 5 per cent from 2015 (see Table 2).

“This is the second consecutive quarter in which Samsung has delivered falling quarterly smartphone sales,” said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner. “Samsung’s smartphone sales declined 8 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016 and its share dropped by 2.9 percentage points year on year.”

“Samsung’s smartphone sales started to drop in the third quarter of 2016, and the decision to discontinue the Galaxy Note 7 slowed down sales of its smartphone portfolio in the fourth quarter,” added Mr Gupta. “The withdrawal of the Galaxy Note 7 left a gap in its large-screen phone range.” Samsung also faced growing competition in the midtier and entry-level smartphone segments from Huawei, Oppo, BBK and Gionee, which all grew their sales each quarter.

Closest Quarter Ever Between Samsung and Apple

It has taken eight quarters for Apple to regain the No. 1 global smartphone vendor ranking, but the positions of the two leaders have never been so close, with only 256,000 units difference. “The last time Apple was in the leading position was in the fourth quarter of 2014, when its sales were driven by its first ever large-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus,” said Mr Gupta. “This time it achieved it thanks to strong sales of its flagship phones — the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus; it also benefited from the weakened demand for Samsung’s smartphones in mature markets such as North America and Western Europe, and in some mature markets in Asia such as Australia and South Korea.

Table 1

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 4Q16 (Thousands of Units)

Vendor 4Q16


4Q16 Market Share (%) 4Q15


4Q15 Market Share (%)
Apple 77,038.9 17.9 71,525.9 17.7
Samsung 76,782.6 17.8 83,437.7 20.7
Huawei 40,803.7 9.5 32,116.5 8.0
Oppo 26,704.7 6.2 12,961.5 3.2
BBK Communication Equipment 24,288.2 5.6 11,359.4 2.8
Others 185,921.1 43.1 191,708.4 47.6
Total 431,539.3 100.0 403,109.4 100.0

Source: Gartner (February 2017)


Top Chinese Smartphone Vendors Grew Share by 7 Percentage Points in Fourth Quarter of 2016

Huawei, Oppo and BBK accounted for 21.3 per cent of smartphones sold to end users worldwide during the fourth quarter of 2016, an increase of 7.3 percentage points year on year. “Huawei introduced Mate 9 during the quarter — within a month of Samsung discontinuing the Galaxy Note 7 — which was good timing to position it as an alternative,” said Mr Gupta.

Huawei’s premium smartphone offering has helped it to reduce the gap with Samsung during the fourth quarter of 2016, with a difference of 36 million units. In the same period last year, the gap between the two vendors was more than 50 million units. “Huawei is poised to reduce the gap further with the No. 2 global smartphone vendor,” said Mr Gupta. “Mate 9 with Alexa will start shipping into the US in the first quarter of 2017.”

Offering high-performance, front-facing cameras and fast charging smartphones led Oppo to maintain the No. 1 positon in China during the fourth quarter of 2016. Its strong position in China and continued growth of sales in the markets outside China have helped Oppo position itself as the No. 4 smartphone vendor worldwide.

BBK’s focus on quality, design and strong branding initiatives has positioned it as a strong mobile phone brand in China and India. BBK continued its hold on the No. 2 position in China and was marginally ahead of Huawei during the fourth quarter of 2016. BBK’s strong performance in India, where its sales grew by 278 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016, and more than 363 per cent in 2016 overall, allowed it to emerge as the No. 5 smartphone vendor worldwide.

Top Chinese brands such as Oppo, BBK, Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi and Lenovo are aggressively expanding into markets outside China, where they will continue to disrupt the top smartphone players in 2017. “Samsung needs to successfully launch the next Galaxy flagship phone in order to continue the momentum Galaxy S7 generated, and win back lost customers by launching a new large screen and stylus-equipped smartphone,” said Mr Gupta.

Table 2

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2016 (Thousands of Units)

Vendor 2016


2016 Market Share (%) 2015


2015 Market Share (%)
Samsung 306,446.6 20.5 320,219.7 22.5
Apple 216,064.0 14.4 225,850.6 15.9
Huawei 132,824.9 8.9 104,094.7 7.3
Oppo 85,299.5 5.7 39,489.0 2.8
BBK Communication Equipment 72,408.6 4.8 35,291.3 2.5
Others 682,314.3 45.6 698,955.1 49.1
Total 1,495,358.0 100.0 1,423,900.4 100.0

Source: Gartner (February 2017)

In the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Google’s Android extended its lead by capturing 82 per cent of the total market in the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 3). In 2016 overall, Android also grew its market share by 3.2 percentage points to reach an 84.8 per cent share, and was the only OS to grow market share year on year. “The entry of Google’s Pixel phone has made the premium Android smartphone offering more competitive, while the re-entry of HMD (Nokia) in the basic (midtier) smartphone category, is set to further increase the competition in emerging markets,” said Mr Gupta.

Table 3

Worldwide Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System in 4Q16 (Thousands of Units)

Operating System 4Q16


4Q16 Market Share (%) 4Q15


4Q15 Market Share (%)
Android 352,669.9 81.7 325,394.4 80.7
iOS 77,038.9 17.9 71,525.9 17.7
Windows 1,092.2 0.3 4,395.0 1.1
BlackBerry 207.9 0.0 906.9 0.2
Other OS 530.4 0.1 887.3 0.2
Total 431,539.3 100.0 403,109.4 100.0

Source: Gartner (February 2017)

Further information is available in the Gartner report entitled “Market Share: Final PCs, Ultramobiles and Mobile Phones, All Countries, 4Q16.”

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior information technology (IT) leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to supply chain professionals, digital marketing professionals and technology investors, Gartner is the valuable partner to clients in more than 10,000 distinct enterprises. Gartner works with clients to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual roles. Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and has almost 9,000 associates, including 1,900 research analysts and consultants, operating in more than 90 countries. For more information, visit


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