Samsung slips further in smartphone market but still tops Apple

Apple's iPhone 6 lineup continues to challenge Samsung's Galaxy S6 phones, according to research firm Gartner.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
4 min read

Samsung's Galaxy S6 lineup hasn't helped it reclaim lost sales or market share. Josh Miller/CNET

Samsung is still the top dog in the smartphone arena though it continues to drip market share.

The Korean mobile phone maker saw its cut of the smartphone market dip to 21.9 percent in the second quarter ended June 30 from 26.2 percent for the same quarter last year, Gartner said on Thursday. Over the same period, Samsung's smartphone sales fell to 72 million from 76.1 million.

Though still in second place, Apple boosted its smartphone market share to 14.6 percent last quarter from 12.2 percent in the prior year's quarter. iPhone sales shot up to 48 million from 35.3 million over the same period. Samsung launched its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in April, but those phones continue to be challenged by Apple's iPhone lineup, Gartner said.

Samsung's smartphone sales and market share have been spiraling down for almost two years now. And the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have so far failed to turn things around, leading to Samsung's seventh straight drop in quarterly earnings for the second quarter. The company has been facing greater competition from Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei on the lower end and Apple on the high end. Samsung's premium phones continue to sell at a premium price tag, though the company has promised to "adjust" prices on its Galaxy S6 lineup. And larger-screened phones are no longer the domain of Android vendors such as Samsung. Apple turned into a stronger rival last September when it introduced its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, with display sizes of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively.

On August 13, Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ , hoping those new phones might win over customers and help recover some of its lost sales and market share.

For the second quarter, Apple's iPhone sales rose by 36 percent, helping it gain an additional 2.4 percentage points in market share. The company benefited from healthy iPhone replacements in both mature and emerging markets, according to Gartner. Though the Chinese smartphone market has stalled as of late, China remained a strong region for Apple where total iPhone sales grew last quarter by 68 percent to reach 11.9 million units.

Chinese vendor Huawei earned the biggest jump in sales growth during the second quarter at 46.3 percent, winning third place among all smartphone vendors. The company's market share rose to 7.8 percent from 6.1 percent, while its smartphone sales jumped to 25.8 million from 17.6 million. Gartner attributed the gains to stronger sales overseas as well as solid 4G smartphone sales in China.

Fellow Chinese phone maker Lenovo took home fourth place, though its cut of the smartphone market fell to 5 percent from 6.6 percent, while sales dropped to 16.4 million from 19 million. Those results include sales of mobile phones made by Lenovo and Motorola Mobility, which Lenovo acquired last October for $2.91 billion. But that purchase isn't paying off at this point. Lenovo announced last Thursday that it would cut around 3,200 jobs from its workforce of 60,000 after sales of Motorola mobile phones fell by 31 percent last quarter.

And fifth place was taken by another Chinese vendor, namely Xiaomi. For the second quarter, Xiaomi's market share inched up to 4.9 percent from 4.3 percent, while smartphone sales rose to 16 million from 12.5 million.

Though Huawei and Xiaomi had a good quarter, the Chinese smartphone market isn't faring as well. Still, the world's largest smartphone market, China saw a 4 percent decline in smartphone sales for the first time ever, according to Gartner, which attributed the drop to saturation.

"China is the biggest country for smartphone sales, representing 30 percent of total sales of smartphones in the second quarter of 2015," Gartner research director Anshul Gupta said in a statement. "Its poor performance negatively affected the performance of the mobile phone market in the second quarter. China has reached saturation -- its phone market is essentially driven by replacement, with fewer first-time buyers. Beyond the lower-end phone segment, the appeal of premium smartphones will be key for vendors to attract upgrades and to maintain or grow their market share in China."

Overall smartphone sales across the globe saw their slowest growth rate since 2013 last quarter, Gartner reported. Worldwide sales reached 330 million units, an increase of 13.5 percent over the same quarter last year.

"While demand for lower-cost 3G and 4G smartphones continued to drive growth in emerging markets, overall smartphone sales remained mixed region by region in the second quarter of 2015," Gupta said. "Emerging Asia/Pacific (excluding China), Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa were the fastest-growing regions, driven by good performance from Chinese and local vendors."