Worldwide smartphone sales hit a record high in 2015, with Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Lenovo racking up the largest gains, an industry tracker reported Wednesday. Global smartphone shipments in 2015 jumped slightly more than 10 percent to an unprecedented 1.43 billion units, International Data Corp. (IDC) said in its preliminary report.
Samsung and Apple, the world’s largest and second-largest smartphone makers by shipments, respectively, retained their positions. Apple increased its 2015 global market share to 16.2 percent from 14.8 percent in 2014. The Silicon Valley giant saw growth in key emerging markets, with sales in China up 18 percent and in India up 76 percent year-on-year.
"With initial Apple shipment estimates all over the map, Apple assured the public that demand for its premium smartphones is still alive and kicking," said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
While Samsung stayed at the top of the charts, it finished the year with 85.6 million smartphone shipments. The South Korean electronics conglomerate's shipments were up just about 2.1 percent year-over-year, amid intensifying competition from Chinese manufacturers in the low-to-mid range market, and increasing popularity of Apple’s iPhone in the high-end smartphone market.
Both Apple and Samsung have issued warnings this week about a drop in mobile shipments in 2016.
The largest growth in shipments came from Chinese mobile equipment company Huawei, with shipments rising 44.3 percent in 2015. This helped the company become the fourth mobile phone maker to ship more than 100 million units in a year, joining Apple, Samsung and Nokia. Also, China's Lenovo recorded the second-fastest growth in terms of global shipments, which rose 24.5 percent in 2015.
"Usually the conversation in the smartphone market revolves around Samsung and Apple, but Huawei's strong showing for both the quarter and the year speak to how much it has grown as an international brand," said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
"While there is a lot of uncertainty around the economic slowdown in China, Huawei is one of the few brands from China that has successfully diversified worldwide, with almost half of its shipments going outside of China,” she added.
Meanwhile, fourth-ranked Lenovo, along with its year-old acquisition of Motorola and fifth-ranked Xiaomi leaned heavily on Chinese sales for growth. The report also noted that due to a heavy saturation of smartphones in markets such as the U.S., Europe and China, vendors would focus on premium-looking mid-tier devices in 2016.