Global smartphone shipments grew 2% annually in CY 2017 but declined 5% in Q4 2017. Top 10 players now capture 77% of the market thereby leaving just below a quarter of segment for over 600+ brands to compete. While Samsung led the smartphone market by volume with a market share of 21% in CY 2017, it lost the top spot to Apple in the fourth quarter.
For the first time in Q4 2017, shipments of seven out of the top ten brands declined YoY signaling a tough quarter for most of the OEMs. Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo were the only brands among top ten which grew YoY–mostly due to strong performances outside of China. Apple shipped 77.3 million smartphones into the market during the final quarter of 2017, which is down 1% annually. The quarter was a week shorter than last year and the company was able to increase ASP's by over $100 to $796 with the launch of the X, 8, and 8 Plus—a trade-off the company is content to make. The challenge for Apple going forward will be its ability to continue to grow its base of 1.3 billion devices.
Out of all the regions as presented below in Counterpoint's chart, only MEA (Middle East & Africa) and India grew in double digits during the quarter. In December Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple in Talks with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Investment Authority to Open First Apple Store in 2019." In April Apple opened a grand Store in Dubai and it's a wondrous design at that. Apple is investing in Arab states that are relatively safe … and rich.
To date Apple has yet to open a single store in Africa or India – though in India Apple had been in an ongoing battle with the government on opening stores until January 10, when India announced that global brands like Apple could now open retails stores without red tape. If true, we'll hopefully we'll see Apple's first flagship store open within the next two years.
Counterpoint also noted in their report that decline in shipments in both China and Europe impacted the overall smartphone market leading to a decline of 5% for the first time ever in Q4 2017.
Going forward, the global smartphone market growth will be linked to the upgrade rate of users across different regions. A longer replacement cycle will mean handset brands might need to tweak their products and go to market strategy. This will eventually mean that handset brands will need to adopt a regional specific strategy to push users to upgrade faster than their current cycle.
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