Third-quarter smartphone sales showed strength by Chinese vendors but declines of 6% for Apple iPhones and 14% for Samsung smartphones over last year.
Samsung’s decline is unsurprising, given the furor over the overheated batteries in its Galaxy Note7s that surfaced in late August, leading to a global recall of millions of the devices.
“The decision to withdraw the Galaxy Note7 was correct, but the damage to Samsung’s brand will make it harder for the company to increase smartphone sales in the short term,” said Anshul Gupta, research director for Gartner, which released the smartphone third-quarter sales numbers on Thursday.
Gupta said it will be “crucial” for the expected Galaxy S8 smartphone to launch successfully so that customers and partners can regain trust in the brand. The currently available Galaxy S7 was released in March.
Samsung’s overall 14.2% smartphone decline in the third quarter was its worst performance ever, worse than the Samsung smartphone drop of 12.3% in the fourth quarter of 2014, Gartner said.
Apple’s iPhone decline is another matter, since its smartphone hasn’t befallen a disaster like Samsung's overheated batteries. Gartner said iPhone sales continued to fall in the third quarter, with a 6.6% decline. That meant Apple accounted for 11.5% of the smartphone market, its lowest share since the first quarter of 2009.
iPhones sales showing declines in two of its biggest markets, dropping by 8.5% in the U.S., and by 31% in China. Gartner said the iPhone 7 has struggled to stimulate sales of smartphone replacements as Apple has wanted.
The lack of smartphone success in the third quarter by U.S.-based Apple and South Korea-based Samsung is largely due to competition from Chinese vendors. Huawei, Oppo and BBK of China accounted for 21% of the smartphones sold to end users worldwide in the third quarter, Gartner said. They were the only smartphones in the top five to increase their sales and market share.
For Oppo, 81% of its smartphone sales for the quarter were in China, as were 89% of BBK's, Gartner said. Both vendors also saw growth in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Russia.
Gartner’s rank and share for the top five vendors for third quarter put Samsung in first with a 19.2% share; Apple in second with 11.5%; Huawei in third with 8.7% ; Oppo in fourth with 6.7%; and BBK in fifth with 5.3%. Total sales were 373 million units, a 5.4% increase over the third quarter of 2015.
Gartner noted that Huawei is closing the gap on Apple, largely due to its feature-packed Honor smartphones. Huawei’s ongoing expansion into Europe and the U.S. will also help.
In late October, IDC reported that global smartphone shipments to retailers were up 1% for the third quarter over a year earlier, reaching 362.9 million. IDC said the long-term impact of the Note7 recall remains to be seen.
“The recall of the Note7 represents an industrywide wake-up call that will undoubtedly lead to a more vigorous testing and certification process moving forward,” IDC analyst Anthony Scarsella said in a statement.