Global Smartphone Slowdown: Apple Manages To Float As Samsung, Xiaomi, Other Brands Dip

It is not a good time to be a smartphone brand — unless you happen to be one with a fruity name based in Cupertino. That is what emerged from the latest report on the global smartphone market by a leading research agency. Apple was the sole major brand that registered growth even as smartphone shipments continued their downward trend this year, with the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo seeing their shipments drop. So what did the global smartphone market look like in Q3 2022? Here are the highlights of the report by the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker for the period.

A record decline in the global smartphone market

As per the report, global smartphone shipments in Q3 2022 stood at 301.9 million units, as compared to 334.2 million units in the same quarter last year.

This represents a year-on-year decline of 9.7 per cent, which is the largest ever third-quarter decline in the global smartphone market.

As per IDC, most of the decline stemmed from emerging markets, where “lack of demand, rising costs, and inflation impacted consumers with lesser disposable incomes.”

Declining for the fifth quarter in a row

The slowdown in the global smartphone market is not an aberration. This is the fifth consecutive quarter in which smartphone shipments have been down year on year.

They were down 8.7 per cent in Q2 2022, 8.9 per cent in Q1 2022, 3.2 per cent in Q4 2021, and 6.7 per cent in Q3 2021. In fact, smartphone shipments in Q3 2020 were 353.6 million.

Many had considered that to be a sign that the market was turning around and recovering from the initial shock of COVID, a belief that was strengthened by growth and impressive numbers in Q4 2020.

However, things do not seem quite as rosy now.

All’s well…only in Central and Eastern Europe, and things are bad in China and developing markets

As per IDC, all regions are expected to register declines not just for Q3 2022 but for the entire year. The only regions that will grow are Central and Eastern Europe.
China registered a decline of 12 per cent, and emerging markets in Asia/Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa are also expected to see significant double-digit slowdowns, although developed markets like North America, Western Europe and Japan will not register as steep declines (single digit ones).

According to the report, developed markets that sell premium devices in larger numbers are doing better than emerging markets where smartphones sell at lower and more competitive prices. Premium phone sales are being spurred by better plans from telcos and retail channels as well as special offers.

However, as per IDC, the global market can grow only if the emerging markets stage a strong recovery. When that will happen though, is not clear (see the final point).

The rankings remain the same — Samsung is still number 1

There has been no change in the top five brands in the global smartphone market ever since Huawei left the top smartphone brand building towards the end of 2020.

Ironically, Huawei had even briefly been number one for a very short period in 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. The top five brands in the global smartphone market since 2021 have been – Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo. And did not change in Q3 2022 as well.

These were the five brands that made up the top five and accounted for almost 70 per cent of all the smartphones shipped in the quarter.

Not only have the top five players in the global smartphone market remained the same over the past few quarters, but even their ranking has remained relatively unchanged.

The first two places are generally a contest between Apple and Samsung, with Apple generally taking the final quarter of the year (when the new iPhone sales are at their highest), and the fourth and fifth positions being fought out between Oppo and Vivo.

Xiaomi rather remarkably has stayed a very steady third right through. And there was no real change in the global smartphone rankings in terms of phones shipped in Q3 2022:

1. Samsung
2. Apple
3. Xiaomi
4. Vivo and Oppo

Interestingly, IDC declared that Vivo and Oppo were tied for the fourth place as the difference between their shipments was 0.1 per cent or less. Meanwhile, there is still no sign of any other brand breaking the hegemony of this top five, notwithstanding the flurry of releases from erstwhile chart-toppers Motorola and Nokia.

Samsung is on top, but slowing down

Samsung might be on top of the global smartphone kingdom, but it has not really been smooth sailing for the Korean brand. Although its global market share went up from 20.8 per cent in Q3 2021 to 21.2 per cent in Q3 2022, its shipments actually declined by 7.8 per cent, going down from 69.5 million units in Q3 2021 to 64 million units in Q3 2022.

Although the 64 million units represent an increase over the 62.4 million in Q2 2022, the year-on-year dip is noticeable.

Apple still grows a bit, but that is more than everyone else

It might have been well behind Samsung in terms of overall shipments, but Apple was the only brand in the top five to register a year-on-year growth. It was not massive growth (a modest 1.6 per cent) but it was the exception in a quarter where the decline was the rule, although even its growth was limited in many regions, including China.

The Cupertino giant’s iPhone 14 series became unavailable only towards the end of Q3 2022, but it still ran up shipments of 51.9 million units as compared to 51.1 million units in Q3 2021.

The brand also saw its market share go up to 17.2 per cent as compared to 15.3 per cent in  Q3 2021 and even 15.6 per cent in the previous quarter (Q2 2022).

Xiaomi’s share is slightly up, but growth is down

Chinese brand Xiaomi has been amazingly consistent at the number three spot for the last few quarters and Q3 2022 sees it retain its place. Interestingly, although its shipments went down from 44.4 million units in Q3 2021 to 40.5 million units (a drop of 8.6 per cent), Xiaomi’s market share actually rose from 13.3 per cent in that quarter to 13.4 per cent.

Xiaomi also recorded an increase in quarter-on-quarter increase in shipments, going up from 39.5 million in the previous quarter.

Vivo, Oppo slow down significantly

While the top three registered single figures of growth or lack of it, the brands at number four, Oppo and Vivo, had much steeper changes in fortune. While Vivo saw its year-on-year shipments fall by 22.1 per cent from  33.3 million in Q3 2021 to 25.9 million in Q3 2022, Oppo fell 22.3 per cent from 33.2 million to 25.8 million.

Their market shares fell significantly too. Vivo had a 10 per cent share in Q3 2021 but was down to 8.6 per cent in Q3 2022.

Oppo had a 9.9 per cent share in Q3 2021, and it too found itself at 8.6 per cent in Q3 2022.

Mind you, both brands had about the same market share in the previous quarter — a far cry from the double-digit shares both had enjoyed in early 2021.

Market recovery is on the cards…but not soon

The outlook for the final quarter of 2022 and even 2023 does not seem too rosy. IDC believes that while the market will recover, it will be “pushed further into the year.”

The agency also expects a “steeper shipment decline for 2022 and a softer recovery in 2023.” Some might hope that the new iPhones and the release of new devices from Xiaomi might make a difference in the final quarter and those that follow, but clearly, the smartphone market has a very steep hill to climb before it dodges the slowdown blues.