Apple overtakes Samsung to take the top spot in smartphone shipments worldwide.

Social Media Plug-ins:

The smartphone industry has undergone a major shift in 2023, with Apple taking the number one global spot for the first time ever, according to new data from IDC and Canalys released Monday and Tuesday. After over a decade of Samsung dominance, Apple managed to edge out its rival and become the top smartphone vendor globally in terms of shipments, and it was actually pretty close.

According to IDC, Apple shipped an estimated 234.6 million smartphones in 2023, just ahead of Samsung’s 226.6 million. This marks a reversal from previous years, when Samsung comfortably led the market. IDC attributes Apple’s rise to a combination of factors, including strong demand for the latest iPhones and increased regulatory challenges for Samsung in China. According to Nabila Popal, research director at IDC, “While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, the biggest winner is clearly Apple.”

Specifically in Q4 2023, the smartphone market saw a recovery with 8.5% year-over-year growth and 326.1 million shipments, beating expectations. Apple remained the leader in the fourth quarter with an impressive 24% market share, according to Canalys. Samsung took second place with a 17% share. Xiaomi, Transsion, and Vivo rounded out the top five vendors. Canalys Senior Analyst Toby Zhu noted that lower-priced mid-range devices have been driving growth, aided by recovering demand in emerging markets.

The shift comes after a challenging 2022 for the smartphone industry. IDC reports global smartphone shipments declined 3.2% for the full year 2023, dropping to 1.17 billion units, which is the lowest volume in a decade. This was largely attributed to macroeconomic challenges and high inventory levels earlier in the year. However, the recovery seen in the second half of 2023 points to a more positive outlook for 2024. As Zhu stated, with easing inflation and supply constraints, vendors can now focus more on innovation and long-term strategic developments.

Multiple factors contributed to Apple’s rise over Samsung. IDC points to Apple’s all-time high market share along with its ability to show growth despite regulatory issues in China. Samsung’s decline was also attributed in part to increasing competition from other Android vendors. As IDC’s Ryan Reith commented, “The overall Android space is diversifying within itself.” Brands such as OnePlus, Honor, Google and others are releasing competitive devices at lower price points, while foldables and on-device AI capabilities are generating interest.

In addition to the shift between Apple and Samsung, Chinese vendors Xiaomi, Oppo, and Transsion all saw strong growth and gained market share in 2023. Their strength was driven by demand in emerging markets as well as competitively priced devices. With the global smartphone industry showing signs of recovering from a difficult 2022, it appears competition is heating up. Apple may enjoy its new spot on top for now, but Samsung and ambitious Chinese rivals will be working hard to regain ground in 2024.