Samsung continues to rule over Apple in smartphone market

Although its market share fell last quarter while Apple's share rose, Samsung retains the crown for the world's leading smartphone vendor, says research firm IDC.

Despite a shrinking market share and sluggish sales, Samsung remains the smartphone leader. CNET

Apple may have sold 47.5 million iPhones last quarter, but Samsung still took home a bigger slice of the smartphone market, according to a report released Thursday by IDC.

During the second quarter of 2015, Samsung bit off a 21.7 percent slice of the global smartphone market with shipments of 73.2 million units, according to IDC. Those numbers were actually down from the same quarter in 2014 when the Korean mobile-phone maker snagged a market share of 24.8 percent on shipments of 74.9 million. But Samsung's numbers last quarter were still high enough to outshine those of Apple.

Apple's second-quarter market share was 14.1 percent, according to IDC, with shipments totaling 47.5 million. Those figures were higher than last year's second quarter when Apple's market share was 11.7 percent based on shipments of 35.2 million. (Apple reported earnings Tuesday, saying it sold 47.5 million iPhones during the quarter.)

Apple and Samsung have long been duking it out for the title of king of the smartphone market. Over the past few years, Samsung has more often than not won the title each quarter. Apple emerged the leader in the final quarter of 2014 based on strong sales of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, according to research firm Gartner. But Samsung quickly regained its No. 1 spot the following quarter, according to fellow researcher Strategy Analytics. Despite Samsung's declining market share, the company has still built up enough of a solid portfolio to keep it at the top of the smartphone pack.

Samung ran into trouble with its new Galaxy S6 Edge, with supply unable to keep up with demand, IDC said. But the company's older Galaxy class phones sold "briskly" as a result of the steep discounts and sales promotions unveiled last quarter.

Though still in second place, Apple did well last quarter, scoring its biggest fiscal third quarter ever with sales of 47.5 million iPhones. The iPhone dominated in China, buoyed by demand for the big-screen iPhone 6 lineup and the growing expansion of 4G networks in the country, IDC said.

Chinese vendors Huawei and Xiaomi took third and fourth place, respectively, as both continue to eat up more market share and generate higher sales.

Huawei saw its market share jump to 8.9 percent last quarter, compared with 6.7 percent the same quarter last year, a surge of 48.1 percent. The company benefited from strong sales of its mid-range and high-end phones both in its own country as well as across Europe. Huawei's challenge now is to see if it can replicate that same demand in the United States where it launched its $250 P8 Lite phone last quarter.

Xiaomi also did well in its native country with both premium and entry-level phones, such as the Mi Note and Redmi 2. The company's market share last quarter rose to 5.3 percent from 4.6 percent, while shipments increased to 17.9 million from 13.8 million. Already entrenched in India and Southeast Asia with strong smartphone sales, the company's next goal is to move beyond the Asia/Pacific region, with Brazil first in line, according to IDC.

Finally, China-based Lenovo took fifth place as it competed with Huawei and Xiaomi for market share at home. The company continued to do well in India and other emerging markets with its entry-level and mid-range phones. And its Motorola lineup, which Lenovo purchased last year, has fared well in America and Europe.

Overall, smartphone vendors shipped 337.2 million units last quarter, a gain of 11.6 percent from the 302.1 million units shipped in 2014's second quarter. That boost gave the quarter the second-highest quarterly total on record.

"The overall growth of the smartphone market was not only driven by the success of premium flagship devices from Samsung, Apple, and others, but more importantly by the abundance of affordable handsets that continue to drive shipments in many key markets," IDC research manager Anthony Scarsella said in a statement. "Although premium handsets sold briskly in developed markets, it was emerging markets, supported by local vendors, driving the momentum that heavily contributed to the second-highest quarter of shipments on record."

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