Apple surpassed Samsung to become the leading phone manufacturer globally in 2023

Apple Inc.’s iPhone surpassed Samsung Electronics Co. devices to secure the position of the best-selling smartphone series in 2023, marking the first time the South Korean company has lost the top spot since 2010.

Estimates from research firm IDC suggest that the iPhone, constituting a fifth of the global market, recorded nearly 235 million shipments last year. Meanwhile, Samsung, experiencing a double-digit decline with 226.6 million shipments, settled for second place, outpacing Chinese competitors like Xiaomi Corp. While Apple traditionally dominated the holiday quarter, its year-long lead over Samsung is unprecedented, indicating that Apple is navigating the industry’s downturn more effectively than its rivals.

Apple’s success can be attributed to compelling offers that enticed a shift toward premium devices. Despite a lukewarm reception for the iPhone 15 in China, its largest international market, where Huawei Technologies Co.’s popularity is rising and government bans are impacting sales, Apple managed to expand its shipments in 2023.

IDC research director Nabila Popal noted, “While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple.” Popal emphasized Apple’s resilience in the face of increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, crediting its ongoing success to the rising trend of premium devices, now constituting over 20% of the market.

The shift towards higher-priced smartphones has been fueled by attractive trade-in offers and interest-free financing, according to IDC. Although Apple was the only top-three player to register growth (3.7%), it has not escaped the broader decline in the industry. Sales of the latest iPhone generation in China have significantly decreased compared to its predecessor, and some analysts anticipate further declines.

Apple faces challenges in the Chinese market, primarily from local tech giant Huawei, which regained lost market share after US sanctions by introducing the Mate 60 Pro smartphone with an advanced made-in-China processor. In response, Apple recently implemented rare discounts on the iPhone in China, reaching up to 5% per handset, in an effort to curb further sales erosion.

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