Apple beat Samsung in global smartphone sales for the first time

The two main market intelligence companies both report that for the first time ever, Apple beat Samsung in global smartphone sales.

The last time Samsung didn’t top the rankings was some 13 years ago, when the top-selling cellphone brand was … Nokia!


IDC and Canalys both rely on a range of methods to come up with estimates of shipments of Apple products, and don’t always agree. But both report that Apple shipped more smartphones than Samsung across 2023.


“The biggest winner is clearly Apple,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team. “Not only is Apple the only player in the Top 3 to show positive growth annually, but also bags the number 1 spot annually for the first time ever. All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market. Apple’s ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans.”


For the first time, Apple pipped Samsung to become the year’s top vendor in terms of shipments […] Apple showed resilience over the past two years, thanks to solid ongoing demand in the high-end segment. The expanded positioning of its iPhone 15 series has pointed to the future direction of Apple’s portfolio strategy to reach a broader range of consumer segments.

Apple doesn’t get all the credit for the shift, IDC noting that Samsung has faced tougher competition in the Android market.

The overall Android space is diversifying within itself. Huawei is back and making inroads quickly within China, Brands like OnePlus, Honor, Google, and others are launching very competitive devices in the lower price range of the high end. 

Canalys also cautions that Apple may not be able to sustain its current sales levels.

Huawei’s improving strength and looming local competition in mainland China will challenge Apple to sustain its growth trajectory in mainland China while high-end replacement demand in other major markets, such as North America and Europe, is leveling off.

But given that Apple almost exclusively sells premium devices, with only the iPhone SE dipping down into the <$600 mid-market, while Samsung has a model at every price point, it’s still a notable achievement.

Indeed, The Verge notes that the last time Samsung wasn’t the global market leader in the cellphone market, the top-selling brand was Nokia – when this beauty could have been yours.

The smartphone market fell across 2023 as a whole, but both firms reported significant year-on-year growth in Q4, suggesting that we may have reached a turnaround point.

Top photo by Jaime Marrero on Unsplash. Nokia 1616 photo by Justus Blümer/CC2.0.

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