Global Smartphone Companies: An Overview

The global smartphone industry is huge and is growing rapidly. GSMA Intelligence says 80% of mobile connections globally will be smartphones by 2025.

Rekha Khandelwal, CFA - Author

Sep. 6 2019, Published 1:48 p.m. ET

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The global smartphone industry is huge and is growing rapidly. According to GSMA Intelligence, 80% of mobile connections globally will be smartphones by 2025. Currently, China, India, and the US are the top three countries by number of smartphone connections. Though there’s a large number of smartphone companies, a few top players dominate the global smartphone industry.

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Global smartphone industry: Top players

According to IDC, Samsung, Huawei, Apple (AAPL), Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo control more than 75% of the global smartphone market. According to Gartner, five of these companies (excluding Vivo) account for around 63% of global smartphone sales. Four of the top six smartphone companies are Chinese. Global smartphone sales in 2019 are expected to be around 1.4 billion units.

Samsung, Huawei, and Apple

Samsung controls more than 20% of the global smartphone market. The Korean conglomerate has retained the highest market share in the global smartphone industry since 2011.

The company’s IT and Mobile Communications division accounted for 37% of its net sales in 2018. This division’s contribution to Samsung’s revenue rose to 48.9% in the first half of 2019. Samsung’s Consumer Electronics and Device Solutions divisions account for its remaining sales. The company offers a wide range of smartphones to meet the needs of its diverse customer base. Samsung’s S series and Note series smartphones target the premium segment, whereas its A series targets the mass market.

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Founded in 1987, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei has 188,000 employees. Huawei sold 206 million smartphones in 2018. In the first half of 2019, the company sold 117 million smartphones. According to IDC, Huawei occupied 14.7% of the global smartphone market share in 2018. Its share rose to 18.9% in the first quarter of 2019.

Apple sold 218 million iPhones in 2018. The company has seen a decline in its iPhone sales in fiscal 2019. In the first nine months of fiscal 2019, Apple’s iPhone sales fell to $109 million, down 15% from the comparable period in fiscal 2018. Falling iPhone sales reflected the global trend of declining smartphone sales. Particularly for Apple, the reason for these declining sales was fewer consumer upgrades. Consumers aren’t switching to newer iPhone versions, as they don’t see enough incremental value to justify the upgrade.

Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo

Listed on Hong Kong stock exchange, Xiaomi was founded in 2010. It’s currently the fourth-largest smartphone company by unit sales. In the first half of 2019, Xiaomi’s smartphone revenue rose 9.8%. The company sold around 60 million smartphones in the first half. In 2018, Xiaomi’s smartphone revenue rose 41%, and its unit volumes rose 30% over 2017.

Xiaomi recently separated its Xiaomi and Redmi brands. Its Xiaomi brand focuses on the mid- to high-end market. Redmi focuses on users looking for value for their money.

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Vivo and Oppo are subsidiaries of Chinese company BBK Electronics Corp. BBK manufactures and sells consumer electronics, primarily in China. According to IDC, Vivo and Oppo each captured around a 7.4% share of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2019. Smartphone company OnePlus Technology is also owned by BBK.

Other global smartphone companies

In addition to the big players discussed above, a number of other companies make smartphones globally. Another major Chinese smartphone company is Lenovo. Lenovo acquired US mobile company Motorola in 2014. Korean conglomerate LG also offers a range of smartphones.

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Declining global smartphone sales

Gartner expects global smartphone sales to decline 2.5% in 2019. The biggest factor driving this expectation is the fall in replacement demand in developed markets. Two types of customers drive smartphone sales growth. The first is first-time buyers of smartphones. These include those switching from feature phones to smartphones and young users starting getting their first devices. Developing and underdeveloped economies continue to see growth in first-time smartphone buyers. This is especially true for markets that are observing reasonable economic and population growth.

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The second category of consumers is those looking to upgrade their existing smartphones. Growth in smartphone sales in developed economies, such as the US and Japan, is primarily driven by this replacement demand. In the absence of value-added features, this segment isn’t upgrading as fast as it was earlier, resulting in a drop in sales growth.

Smartphone companies are constantly innovating to drive demand growth. We’ll take a look at their potential growth drivers in the next part of this series.

Rising Chinese dominance

Another trend in the global smartphone industry is the rising dominance of Chinese smartphone companies. Four of the top six smartphone companies are Chinese. Moreover, most of their market shares continue to rise, even as smartphone sales are falling. However, the US-China trade war may affect the growth of the Chinese players.

President Donald Trump has long accused China of “stealing” technology from US companies. The US also has concerns about China spying on other countries, including the US, through technology companies. Trump recently banned US technology companies from doing business with Huawei. These developments may affect the growth of Huawei and other Chinese smartphone makers, as consumers are becoming concerned about the software, apps, and future support they’ll be able to offer.

So far, we’ve discussed the top players and the key trends in the smartphone industry. Next, we’ll discuss the industry’s potential growth drivers, including 5G connectivity, AI, and the growth of smartphones in emerging markets. We’ll also discuss the key risks smartphone companies face.


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