Apple Overtakes Samsung As World’s Largest Smartphone Maker

Tech giant Apple has recently seized the throne from its long-standing rival, Samsung, emerging as the world’s leading smartphone maker by volume. The 12-year reign of the South Korean tech company has come to an end, marking a significant shift in the dynamics of the global smartphone market.

The Rise to the Top

In 2023, Apple achieved a historic milestone, becoming the top smartphone maker by volume for the first time. It also dethroned Samsung in the process. This triumph comes as consumers increasingly opt for higher-priced handsets, propelling Apple’s shipments to 234.6 million units. That’s a 3.7 per cent increase from the previous year.

Facing the Industry’s Downturn

Amidst a challenging landscape, with smartphone shipments experiencing a 3.2 per cent decline to 1.17 billion units, Apple stood out as the sole major handset maker to achieve annual unit growth. This growth defied the odds in a year that marked the smartphone market’s worst performance in a decade.

Apple has long held the lead in revenues and profits thanks to the dominance of the iPhone in the high-end market. However, 2023 marked the first time the tech giant claimed the top spot in smartphone volume. This multifaceted success solidifies Apple’s unmatched position in the industry.

Samsung’s Struggles

In contrast, Samsung faced a 13.6 per cent decline in shipments. Moreover, the company lost ground to competitors such as Huawei in China and the impressive growth of cheaper Android handset makers like Transsion.

Chinese manufacturer Transsion experienced a remarkable 30.8 per cent growth, securing a spot in the top five smartphone makers globally. This growth, driven by brands like Tecno, Infinix, and Intel, has positioned Transsion as the dominant smartphone company in Africa.

Strategic Shifts in 2023

Samsung’s focus on the mid-to-high-end segment for profitability resulted in a loss of share in the low-end segment and a decline in its global market leadership. Analysts at Canalys highlighted this strategic shift, emphasizing that Apple’s market leadership extends beyond just volume.

Shifting Tides in the Fourth Quarter

Shifting Tides in the Fourth Quarter

Canalys reported an 8 per cent year-on-year increase in smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter, signalling a reversal of seven consecutive quarters of decline. It seems the demand from holiday shoppers played a crucial role in this positive momentum.

Apple’s Resilience and Future Outlook

Despite momentarily losing its position as the world’s most valuable public company to Microsoft, Apple remains resilient. Moreover, iPhone sales rebounded by 11.6 per cent in the fourth quarter following the launch of its latest models.

Market Evolution

The smartphone market has undergone a transformative evolution since Samsung’s reign began in 2011. Brands like Nokia, LG, and BlackBerry, which once led the market, have been overshadowed by the dominance of Apple and Samsung.

As smartphone technology matures and upgrades become more incremental, consumers are upgrading their devices less frequently. However, when replacements occur, there is a notable trend towards choosing more expensive and capable devices. That benefits Apple, which has strategically raised iPhone prices in recent years.

Apple’s Unprecedented Triumph

Apple’s ascent to the top of the smartphone market by volume represents a historic turning point. The company’s strategic decisions, coupled with consumer preferences for premium devices, have solidified its position as the undisputed leader. The Apple store and the iconic Apple iPhone continue to shape the landscape of the global smartphone industry, with no signs of relinquishing their dominance.

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