Smartphone manufacturers shipped a total of 355.2 million smartphones worldwide in the third quarter of 2015, up 6.8% from the 332.6 million units compared with the same period last year, according to the latest report from IT analytics firm IDC.
The third quarter of 2015 was the second-highest quarter of shipments on record, the report noted, but was slightly below IDC's previous forecast of 363.8 million units, largely due to slightly lower than expected iPhone shipments.
With a record-breaking 13 million iPhone 6S and 6S Plus units shipped during launch week Apple's newest iPhones helped drive third quarter shipments of 48 million units, up 22.2% from 39.3 million units last year.
Along with the media frenzy and fanfare that helped push new iPhone sales through the roof, older iPhone 5S, 6, and 6 Plus models also sold vigorously during the quarter due to recent price cuts across all models.
Samsung, which remained focused on premium handsets with the launch of two new flagship devices, the Galaxy S6 edge + and Note5, once again remained the overall leader in the worldwide smartphone market with 84.5 million units shipped, up 6.1% from last year.
The report also noted that, outside of the key flagship models, the company’s sub-$200 devices, including the Galaxy Core and Grand Prime, as well as the J-Series, drove a majority of shipments in many key emerging markets.
Huawei shipped 26.5 million units, up a robust 60.9% from last year -- good enough for a third place finish, while Lenovo, with help from its acquired assets in Motorola, finished in fourth place.
Rounding out the top five was Xiaomi, which shipped 18.3 million smartphones in the third quarter, bringing its 2015 total to 52.1 million, thanks in large part to the brand’s popularity within China.
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"The third quarter placed a substantial emphasis on flagship devices as vendors tried to outclass each other in both features and design," Anthony Scarsella, IDC research manager for mobile phones, said in a statement. "New flagship models translated to fiercer competition at the high-end for most players as many will try to challenge both Samsung and Apple for a place among the elite. However, despite the glitz and glamour at the high-end, we still expect the bulk of volume and growth to once again sprout from low to mid-range handsets, particularly in emerging markets."
"The vendor landscape and product offerings are really unique at the moment as many markets are seeing consumers become more aware of alternative buying options when it comes to paying for their smartphone," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said in a statement. "In mature and subsidized markets, we now have a wide range of operators offering equipment installation plans (EIP), as well as early trade-in options."
He also noted that at the same time, the number of unlocked and off-contract offerings has increased significantly, and that situation is slowly starting to resonate with consumers.