The World’s Top Five Smartphone Companies


Jul. 25 2020, Updated 11:20 a.m. ET

In less than two decades, smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives. Gartner noted that smartphone companies around the world are expected to sell 1.5 billion smartphones in 2019. Despite their widespread use, a handful of players dominate the global smartphone industry.

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In the second quarter, the top five smartphone companies captured 63% of global smartphone sales. Let’s take a closer look at these top smartphone companies. With more than 20% of global smartphone sales, Samsung tops the list of smartphone companies. 

Samsung: The top smartphone company

Samsung (SSNLF) has retained the largest market share in the global smartphone industry for the last eight years. Founded in 1969, Samsung Electronics offers a range of electronics products. The South Korean conglomerate’s operations comprise four segments—Consumer Electronics, IM (Information Technology & Mobile Communications), Device Solutions, and Harman.

Samsung’s Consumer Electronics segment includes digital TVs, monitors, air conditioners, and refrigerators. Its Device Solutions division includes products such as memory and foundry in the semiconductor business, as well as LCD and OLED panels in the display business. Samsung’s Harman division includes connected car systems, audio and visual products, and enterprise automation solutions.

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Samsung’s IM division includes mobile phones, communication systems, and computers. Among these, mobile phones are the major contributor to the division’s sales, accounting for roughly 95% of the division’s sales in the first half of 2019. Mobile phones contributed 40% to the company’s total 2018 sales, and their contribution rose to 46% in the first half of 2019.

However, the segment’s operating margin narrowed from 10.1% in 2018 to 7.2% in the first half of 2019. Sluggish demand in the premium smartphone segment, combined with intense competition in the low-end to midrange market segment, impacted Samsung’s margins in the latest quarter. While smartphones are a key contributor to Samsung’s revenue, investors should watch for squeezed margins. 

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Samsung’s S series and Note series smartphones target the premium segment, whereas its A series and M series target the mass market. Samsung recently launched the Galaxy Fold, the first foldable screen smartphone. 

Huawei: Chinese smartphone leader

According to Gartner, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei had a market share of 15.8% in the second quarter. Huawei is the second-ranked smartphone company in the world in terms of sales, and it sold 206 million smartphones in 2018. In the first half of 2019, Huawei sold 117 million smartphones.

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Founded in 1987, Huawei has 188,000 employees. Its employees wholly own this private company, and no other organization, including the government, holds any stake in the company. 

Huawei offers a range of electronics products for consumers and businesses. In the consumer segment, the company sells mobile phones, laptops, tablets, wearables, and more. In the business segment, the company offers products such as switches, routers, and wireless and fixed networks. 

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Huawei also offers services such as enterprise networking and cloud-powered digital services. In 2018, the company generated revenue of $105 billion and a net profit of $8.7 billion. 

The company is facing some heat after the US banned technology companies from doing business with Huawei. It recently launched its 5G phone Mate 30 without Google Play services. Huawei plans to launch its foldable phone Mate X in October. How the US ban impacts the company’s performance remains to be seen.

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Apple: The leader in profits

Apple (AAPL) earned a net profit of $59 billion in 2018, making it the top technology company worldwide in terms of profits. Apple’s 2018 revenues stood at $266 billion, and the company sold 218 million iPhones in 2018. However, the company’s iPhone sales declined in its fiscal 2019.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2019, Apple’s iPhone sales fell to $109 billion, down 15% from the comparable period in fiscal 2018. Fewer consumer upgrades contributed to the company’s fall in sales. The older iPhones seem to be working fine, and consumers aren’t switching to newer versions. This slowdown in upgrading resulted from consumers not seeing enough incremental value to justify the upgrade.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2019, iPhones comprised 56% of Apple’s total sales. Its digital content and other services, including iCloud and Apple Pay, comprised 17% of its revenues. In comparison, the company’s Mac desktop and notebook computers contributed 10% of its revenues. 

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Unlike Huawei, Xiaomi is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Founded in 2010, Xiaomi was the fourth-largest smartphone company by unit sales in the second quarter. The company sold around 60 million smartphones in the first half of 2019. During this period, Xiaomi’s smartphone revenue rose 9.8%.

Xiaomi generated around $25 billion in revenue in 2018, and its profit for the year was around $2 billion. Xiaomi’s smartphone segment comprised 65% of the company’s revenue and 32% of its gross profit in 2018.

In 2018, the company’s smartphone revenue rose 41% over 2017. Its smartphone unit volumes rose 30% during this period. Other lifestyle products and Internet services accounted for the remaining revenues.

Xiaomi has separated its Xiaomi and Redmi brands. The company’s Xiaomi brand focuses on the premium market, while Redmi focuses on the mass market.

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BBK Electronics: Oppo and Vivo

Vivo and Oppo are subsidiaries of Chinese company BBK Electronics Corp. Smartphone company OnePlus Technology is also owned by BBK. Established in 1998, BBK manufactures and sells consumer electronics, mainly in China and Russia. According to the privately held company, it aims to provide high-quality products at low prices.

Oppo launched its first mobile phone in 2008, and Vivo was founded in 2009. Oppo sells in 40 countries and has more than 40,000 employees. According to IDC, Vivo and Oppo each captured a 7.4% share of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2019.

As part of our overview series, you can read What You Need to Know about the World’s Largest Oil Companies.


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