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Global smartphone shipments post fourth straight down quarter

Samsung is still king, but losing ground to Chinese rivals.

Angela Lang/CNET

The worldwide smartphone slump is officially a year old.

Global shipments of smartphones tumbled to 360 million units in the third quarter, an 8 percent annual decline, market researcher Strategy Analytics said Thursday. The results mark the fourth-straight quarter that smartphone shipments have declined.

The smartphone market "is effectively in a recession," Linda Sui, director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement. "The smartphone industry is struggling to come to terms with heavily diminished carrier subsidies, longer replacement rates, inventory buildup in several regions, and a lack of exciting hardware design innovation."

On Friday, market researcher IDC issued its own numbers for the third quarter, which largely match those of Strategy Analytics. It pointed to China, the world's largest market for smartphones, and to Samsung as key factors in the decline for the period. IDC also sees a recovery on the horizon for China starting in 2019.

Markets overall could see signs of impending improvement before the end of this year.

"The holiday quarter should be an exciting one with a wide selection of new flagship devices available," Anthony Scarsella, a research manager at IDC, said in a statement. "With the new iPhones, Mate 20, Pixel 3, V40, Note 9, and OnePlus 6T, we can expect consumers will have a plethora of options when upgrade time approaches."

Samsung held on to its global smartphone crown with a 20 percent market share, but its 72.3 million units shipped during the quarter is a 13 percent drop from the same quarter a year earlier. Samsung is being squeezed in the huge China and India markets by Huawei, Xiaomi and other Chinese rivals -- a problem the company needs to solve "before it's too late," Strategy Analytics said.

Highlighting Samsung's problem, No. 2 Huawei's shipments increased 32 percent annually to nearly 52 million smartphones in the quarter. The company's Android phones have little presence in North America but are "wildly popular" in the rest of the world, garnering a 14 percent market share, Strategy Analytics said.

No. 3 Apple's shipment of 46.9 million smartphones represented a largely flat growth rate for the quarter and gave it a 13 percent market share. "The new iPhone XR, XS and XS Max range is in healthy demand, but Apple's relentless focus on price increases its capping its overall volume growth," Strategy Analytics' Woody Oh said in a statement.

Xiaomi captured the No. 4 spot by shipping 33 million units in the quarter for a 9.2 percent market share, while No. 5 Oppo was close behind with an 8.7 percent market share on 31.2 million shipments.

Originally published Nov. 1 at 4:13 p.m. PT.
Updated Nov. 2 at 7:15 a.m. PT: Added information from IDC.

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