Gartner: High-end smartphone sales stalled in Q4 2018

Global sales of smartphones stalled in the fourth quarter of 2018, totalling 408.4 million units — growth of just 0.1% over the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Gartner. Apple recorded its worst quarterly decline (11.8%) since the first quarter of 2016.

  • iPhones hit 64.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a decline of 11.8% year over year – the biggest decline in growth for the quarter among the top five global smartphone vendors.
  • iPhone demand weakened in most regions, except North America and mature Asia/Pacific. Sales declined most in Greater China, where its market share dropped to 8.8% in Q4 from 14.6% in Q4 2017.
  • For 2018 as a whole, iPhone sales were down 2.7% to just over 209 million units.

Apple has to deal not only with buyers delaying upgrades as they wait for more innovative smartphones, but it also continues to face compelling high-price and midprice smartphone alternatives from Chinese vendors. Both these challenges limit Apple’s unit sales growth prospects.

Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner

  • Samsung smartphones such as the Galaxy S9, S9+ and Note9 struggled to drive growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, while in the midtier, Xiaomi and Huawei continued to grab more market share.
  • Samsung’s smartphone sales declined by 4.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • Samsung lost market share in Greater China, Western Europe and Latin America, which contributed to an overall 8.2% fall in its smartphone sales in 2018.
  • Huawei sold over 60 million smartphones in Q4 and achieved the strongest growth of the quarter among the top five global smartphone vendors (37.6%)

Although Samsung is strengthening its smartphone offering at the midtier, it continues to face growing competition from Chinese brands that are expanding into more markets. It also faces difficulty bringing significant innovation to high-end smartphones. Samsung introduced new midtier-focused M series smartphones in the first quarter of 2019 to compete with aggressive Chinese manufacturers in emerging markets, and to expand into the online sales channel.

Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner