New Delhi: Global smartphone sales expanded at the slowest growth rate in the last quarter (October-December) of 2015 since 2008, partly owing to the declining iPhone sales, said research firm Gartner Inc. on Thursday.

While Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd continued to be the top smartphone vendor globally, increasing its worldwide sales to end users, Apple Inc, which has remained at the number two position all through last year, suffered its first decline in sales of smartphones—iPhone sales were down 4.4%.

Global sales of smartphones to end users totaled 403 million units in the fourth quarter of 2015, a 9.7% increase over the same period in 2014, showed the data collated by Gartner. In 2015 as a whole, smartphone sales reached 1.4 billion units, an increase of 14.4% from 2014.

For total sales of smartphones in 2015, Samsung’s market share declined by 2.2 percentage points to 22.5% as it sold 320.2 million units, while Apple, which sold 225.9 million iPhones, achieved a market share of 15.9%, an increase of half percentage point over the last year. Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd stood at the third position as its smartphone sales approached 104 million units, up 53% year on year.

Lenovo Group Ltd (including Motorola) and Xiaomi Corp. were the fourth and fifth largest smartphone vendors, respectively, for 2015.

Gartner remains bullish about the industry as the demand from emerging countries continue to drive growth.

“Low-cost smartphones in emerging markets, and strong demand for premium smartphones, continued to be the driving factors," said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner. “An aggressive pricing from local and Chinese brands in the mid-range and entry-level segments of emerging markets led to consumers upgrading more quickly to affordable smartphones."

Gartner noted that about 85% of users in the emerging Asia Pacific market are replacing their current mid-range phone with a phone in the same category.

Meanwhile, smartphone vendors are looking to set up manufacturing facilities in countries like India, which could further drive demand.

“Currency devaluations against the US dollar in many emerging markets are putting further margin pressure on many vendors that import devices," said Gupta. “Current market conditions are prompting some vendors to consider setting up manufacturing operations in India and Indonesia to avoid being hit by future unfavourable currency devaluations and high import taxes."

In the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Android increased its share by 16.6% in the fourth quarter of 2015, to account for 80.7% of the global total. Apple iOS and Windows OS had a market share of 17.7% and 1.1% in the quarter.

“Android benefited from continued demand for affordable smartphones and from the slowdown of iOS units in the premium market in the fourth quarter of 2015," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.

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