HolidayBuyer's Guide

Samsung still tops in smartphones, but market share plummeting

New data from research firm Gartner shows that Samsung owned 24.4 percent of the smartphone market worldwide in the third quarter, down from 32 percent a year earlier.

Not even the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 could help the company in the third quarter.Photo by James Martin/CNET

Samsung remained king of the smartphone market in the third quarter, but a deeper dive into the data shows that the situation was far from encouraging for the company.

During the third quarter, Samsung sold 73.2 million smartphones worldwide, giving the company 24.4 percent market share, research firm Gartner reported Monday. During the same period in 2013, Samsung sold 80.4 million smartphones and nabbed 32.1 percent market share.

Samsung's troubles weren't due to a troubled smartphone market. Quite the contrary, the entire market saw sales jump from 250.3 million in 2013 to 301 million in 2014.

Apple was among the big winners in the third quarter, with sales rising from 30.3 million last year to 38.2 million this year. China-based smartphone makers Huawei and Xiaomi also saw sales jump, with Huawei seeing a rise by 4.3 million units year over year to 16 million. Xiaomi has taken China and surrounding areas by storm, as sales rose from 3.6 million in Q3 2013 to 15.8 million in the same period this year.

Still, Samsung's situation garnered the most attention in the data dump. Samsung has been saying with each quarterly financial filing that its smartphone business has been stumbling. Samsung has blamed the issues on increasing competition in key markets, such as China, as well as trouble with mounting marketing costs. Indeed, Gartner said Monday that Samsung's smartphone sales in China, its biggest market, were down 28.6 percent year over year in the third quarter.

The troubles included Samsung's flagship Galaxy S5, which was released in April. A report from the Wall Street Journal last month, citing people who claimed to have knowledge of Samsung's individual device sales, said that the Galaxy S5 sales were 40 percent lower compared with its predecessor, the Galaxy S4. Galaxy S5 sales were only up in the US this year and were down in all other markets.

The issues have even extended to Samsung's overall mobile phones business, which has historically been a key success driver for the company. During the third quarter of 2013, Samsung sold 117 million mobile phones, altogether according to Gartner. Last quarter, those sales fell to 94 million.

Despite the bad news for Samsung, there were some successes for other firms. Google's Android platform, for instance, captured even more market share, growing from 82 percent in 2013 to 83.1 percent last quarter on 250 million sales. Apple's iOS jumped a bit to 12.7 percent market share on 38.2 million sales.

Looking ahead, Gartner research director Annette Zimmermann predicted only good things for Apple: "Over the holidays we expect record sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but we should not underestimate the Chinese vendors and local brand."

Apple, Google, and Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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