According to the IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, phone companies shipped a total of 344.3 million smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2017 (1Q17). In light of what might seem like a slowing market, consumers continue to show demand for smartphones and OEM flagship hype seems strong as ever. Worldwide smartphone shipments grew 3.4% in 1Q17 year over year, which was slightly lower than IDC's previous forecast of 3.6% growth.

IDC: Smartphone OS Market Share 2016, 2015 Chart
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Period Samsung Apple Huawei OPPO vivo Others
2016Q1 23.8% 15.4% 8.4% 5.9% 4.4% 42.1%
2016Q2 22.7% 11.7% 9.3% 6.6% 4.8% 45.0%
2016Q3 20.9% 12.5% 9.3% 7.1% 5.9% 44.3%
2016Q4 18.0% 18.2% 10.5% 7.3% 5.7% 40.2%
2017Q1 23.3% 14.7% 10.0% 7.5% 5.5% 39.0%

Source: IDC, May 2017

Samsung regained control as the leader in the worldwide smartphone market despite a flat first quarter (0% year over year growth). Substantial discounts on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge helped move last year's flagships as they make way for the new S8 and S8+. Outside of the high end, the product mix continues to shift toward more affordable models. The J-Series and A-Series drove significant volumes in both emerging and developed markets thanks to flagship-like design at more affordable price points. A refreshed A7, A5, and A3 earlier this quarter, along with a recently updated J-Series, and new flagship S8/S8+ should give Samsung a well-balanced portfolio across all regions in the second quarter. An early positive response to the recently launched S8 and S8+ looks promising as it may have finally put Samsung's Note 7 fiasco to bed.

Apple dropped slightly with shipments reaching 50.7 million units in the first quarter, down from the 51.2 million shipped in Q1 last year. Apple introduced a refreshed iPhone SE with more storage capacity (32GB and 128GB) that puts the mid-tier device in line with the rest of the iPhone portfolio. The Cupertino-based giant also refreshed its flagship smartphone by bringing (Product)Red over to the iPhone which paints both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in a new red finish. Finally, rumors of a special edition 10th anniversary iPhone continue to grow as a pending new design, screen size, and performance upgrades all look to be in the works for the fall.

Huawei sustained its dominance in China growing nearly 23% as shipments climbed from 28.1 million units last year, to 34.6 million units in the first quarter of 2017. Huawei once again demonstrated its stable position in the premium market with the P and Mate Series, and a strong presence in the affordable sector with its Y Series and Honor brand. Although Huawei announced earlier in the month that the Mate 9 has sold over 5 million units since it launched in November, in the U.S. the device, as well as the brand, has failed to grab consumer attention. This U.S. attention is something they will need if they aspire to displace the two market leaders. The launch of the new P10 flagship and the new P10 Plus at the very end of the quarter presents consumers a valid third option (outside of Apple and Samsung) for the coming quarter thanks to both premium design and similar performance.

OPPO's midrange, camera-focused R9s was a crucial model in China that helped it to see strong shipments in the market. OPPO's growth has in fact been stronger outside of China with nearly a quarter of shipments from international markets. In the rest of Asia and to a smaller degree in the Middle East and Africa regions, its strong retail presence has helped it to grow further in its business. It has been aggressive in both above-the-line and below-the-line activities in India, and stepped up with its after-sales service efforts in several Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia by increasing its number of service centers.

vivo also relied on a key model with the x9 in China that continued to generate a lot of hype around its selfie camera features, targeted at the below-30 crowd. It stepped up with its marketing efforts in India and was as a sponsor of the Indian Premier League 2017, helping to increase vivo's brand presence in the market, while also increasing the number of exclusive stores in India. In Southeast Asia, it continues to have its own promoters aggressively pushing its phones in the market. In Indonesia, it has also promised consumers single-day phone repairs as a differentiator to the competition.