Thanks to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus shipments, smartphone sales accounted for two thirds of the global phone market in 2014, according to new research from Gartner. Total mobile phone sales reached 1.2 billion units by the end of the year, an increase of 28.4% from 2013.
The fourth quarter of 2014 alone broke records. Sales reached 367.5 million devices, an increase of 29.9% from the fourth quarter of 2013.
Samsung, which had been the global smartphone leader since 2011, surrendered its top spot as it finished 2014 with 19.9% marketshare in the fourth quarter. It was replaced by Apple, which controlled 20.4% of the smartphone market by the end of the same quarter. Lenovo, Huawei, and Xiaomi followed.
[Blackberry releases smartphones, focuses on software.]
The fourth quarter of 2014 was Apple's best yet, with 74.8 million devices sold. Its first line of large-screen phones proved hugely popular in China and the US, where sales grew at rates of 56% and 88%, respectively. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, with Apple's strong iOS base, provided a device to customers who prefer larger screen phones and may have otherwise switched to Android.
Apple's progress is giving Samsung some stiff competition. Samsung's status in the smartphone market deteriorated during the fourth quarter of 2014 as the company lost almost 10 percentage points in marketshare. It was at its peak during the third quarter of 2013 and has since experienced a downward trend.
"With Apple dominating the premium phone market and the Chinese vendors increasingly offering quality hardware at lower prices, it is through a solid ecosystem of apps, content and services unique to Samsung devices that Samsung can secure more loyalty and longer-term differentiation at the high end of the market," Gartner research director Roberta Cozza wrote in a March 3 statement.
Chinese vendors should no longer be perceived as followers, Cozza noted. Their devices now boast new hardware features that can appeal to consumers and compete with products from more mature companies. Through strong marketing and brand building, these vendors can secure their position in established markets.
Samsung might have had a bad quarter, but it still dominated smartphone sales throughout 2014. Its marketshare for the year amounted to 24.7%, with Apple (15.4%), Lenovo (6.5%), and Huawei (5.5%) falling behind. For mobile phones overall, Samsung ended the year at 20.9% of the market, followed by Apple (10.2%) and Microsoft (9.9%).
Android controlled the lion's share of smartphone sales in terms of operating systems and made up 80.7% of the market by year's end. iOS reached 15.4%, and Windows amounted to 2.8%.
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