The worldwide smartphone market began the year with an expected retrenchment from holiday quarter shipment volumes, but still posted a year-over-year increase in the first quarter of 2014 (1Q14).
According to research firm IDC, vendors shipped a total of 281.5 million smartphones worldwide, up 28.6 percent from the 218.8 million units in 1Q13 but down -2.8 percent from the 289.6 million units shipped in 4Q13.
The results beat IDC’s forecast of 267.2 million units for the first quarter of 2014 by 5.3 percent.
In the worldwide mobile phone market (inclusive of smartphones), vendors shipped 448.6 million units, up 3.9 percent from the 431.8 million units shipped 1Q13 but down -9.0 percent from the 492.8 million units shipped in 4Q13. This is 0.6 percent lower than the 451.3 million units IDC had forecast for the quarter.
Smartphones accounted for 62.7 percent of all mobile phone shipments in 1Q14, up from the 50.7 percent of all mobile phone shipments in 1Q13.
“The first quarter of the year typically brings sequential retrenchment from the holiday spending of the previous quarter,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC’s mobile phone team.
“The small difference between the two quarters points to sustained strong demand, driven by emerging markets, low-cost devices, and the proliferation of 4G networks. If this is how we start the year, then we can look forward to another record-breaking quarter at the end of the year.”
“The face of the smartphone market is changing rapidly to reflect the rise of its largest market, China, where a record 40 percent of the smartphones shipped worldwide in 1Q14 were bound to Chinese consumers,” said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC’s worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker.
“In a quarter where global shipments declined sequentially, China bucked the trend. The market benefited from its seasonal Lunar New Year uptick, greater emphasis on 4G devices following the December TD-LTE network launch, and the official launch of Apple at China Mobile resulted in volumes a third higher than 4Q13 levels.”
IDC expects total smartphone shipment volumes to reach 1.2 billion units in 2014, up 19.3 percent year over year from the 1.0 billion units shipped in 2013. This marks a slowdown from the 39.2-percent growth seen in 2013.
“The lower growth rate for 2014 should not be interpreted as a sign that the market has come as far as it can,” added Llamas.
“In fact, there will be plenty to observe. Apple’s entry into China is only the start of where it has yet to go. The introduction of Nokia’s Android-powered X-series as well as Microsoft’s recently completed acquisition of Nokia marks a new era for both companies. Numerous companies outside of Samsung and Apple, fueled by acquisitions and new strategies, will make a run at position and market share. In all, there are multiple dynamic trends in the making, which will make for an interesting year.”
Smartphone vendor highlights:
Samsung began 2014 exactly where it started and finished 2013: as the undisputed worldwide leader in the smartphone market. By the end of the quarter, Samsung had shipped more smartphones than the next four vendors combined.
While the company relied on its high-end smartphones within mature markets and its deep selection of entry and mid-range models in emerging markets, Samsung unveiled and launched its flagship Galaxy S5 within select markets.
Apple reached a new first quarter record, breaching the 40 million unit mark. The company saw double-digit growth in Japan as well as across multiple developing markets, including Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia. Still, this made for the lowest year-over-year improvement among the leading vendors.
What remains to be seen is when ? not if ? Apple’s rumored large-screen models will arrive on the market, filling a gap in the company’s portfolio that has been exploited by the competition.
Huawei kept its third place position worldwide, beating out Lenovo by fewer than a million units. Huawei’s aim for 2014 is to ship 80 million smartphones worldwide, and contributing to that is the company’s increasing emphasis on large-screen smartphones.
Huawei revealed its latest addition, the Ascend Mate 2 4G, which features a 6.1-inch screen, one of the largest screen sizes in the industry.
Lenovo posted the largest year-over-year increase among the leading vendors, with continued success in Asia-Pacific and a nominal presence elsewhere.
This will quickly change once the acquisition of Motorola is completed, thereby giving the company a footprint in markets ? including North America and Western Europe ? where it has been notably absent.
LG continued as the number five vendor worldwide and its 12.3 million units were enough to stave off multiple Chinese vendors, including Coolpad, Xiaomi, and ZTE.
Driving the company’s success was its emphasis on LTE-powered smartphones, including the G2, Nexus 5, and the G Flex. At the same time, the company saw the continued success of its mid-range F-series and entry-level L-series devices.