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iPhone, Samsung Power Smartphone Market To New Heights: IDC

Robust holiday demand and major gains from upcoming brands such as Huawei pushed worldwide smartphone shipments to record levels in 2015, but Apple and Samsung remained leaders.
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Boosted by a robust holiday sales quarter and handsets with numerous price points, smartphone manufacturers shipped a total of 399.5 million units during the fourth quarter of 2015 -- good for 5.7% growth compared to the 377.8 million units shipped in the last quarter of 2014.

The figures from IT research firm IDC revealed the global smartphone market set a new record with a total of 1.43 billion units shipped in 2015 -- up a healthy 10% from the 1.3 billion units shipped in 2014.

Consumer electronics powerhouse Samsung continued to lead the field for the quarter and the year with 85.6 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2015, up 14% from last year.

Thanks to strong growth in China, India, and other emerging markets, Apple had its most successful quarter yet with 74.8 million units shipped, up a scant bit from the 74.5 million shipped last year.

Although the company witnessed minimal growth year-over-year, its 2015 total marketshare climbed to 16.2%, up from 14.8% in 2014 -- though Apple warned this week that the long upward arc of iPhone sales may have reached its zenith.

Continued demand for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, particularly in China and the US, elevated Apple in 2015 to 231.5 million units shipped in the year. Growth in China alone was up 18% despite an increase in average selling price (ASP) to $691 from $687 a year ago.

"With initial Apple shipment estimates all over the map, Apple assured the public that demand for its premium smartphones is still alive and kicking," Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said in a statement. "A new record-setting quarter for Apple indicates consumers continued demand for Apple's latest offerings regarding upgraded hardware and software."

Scarsella noted features such as a more widely accepted Apple Pay, increased performance, and the innovative Force Touch technology continued to set the iPhone apart from the competition.

Despite the dominance of Apple and Samsung, other vendors made impressive gains, with Huawei as the biggest winner in the quarter, boasting the strongest year-over-year growth among the top five vendors at 37%.

[Read iOS 9.2.1 Gives Older iPhones a Performance Boost.]

"Huawei's strong showing for both the quarter and the year speak to how much it has grown as an international brand," Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC's Tracker, said in a statement. "While there is a lot of uncertainty around the economic slowdown in China, Huawei is one of the few brands from China that has successfully diversified worldwide, with almost half of its shipments going outside of China."

The company also became just the fourth mobile phone vendor in history to ship over 100 million smartphones in a year (preceded by Samsung, Apple, and Nokia).

Lenovo, just over one year after its acquisition of Motorola, managed to land in fourth place, despite fewer groundbreaking new models in 2015, and in the face of greater competition in its domestic market from smaller local competitors at the low end.

Chinese-based smartphone maker Xiaomi looked to its home turf, where 90% of its volumes come from, to round out the top five. Xiaomi attempted to encourage a transition away from the low-end range of models into more midrange models in 2015. However, IDC reports that the bulk of the shipments were of low-end models.

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