Apple loses smartphone crown to Samsung as Chinese rivals gain ground

iPhone sales fall 10 per cent in first quarter of 2024 while groups including Xiaomi and Transsion register huge growth

Apple lost its lead in the global smartphone market at the start of 2024, with iPhone sales falling 10 per cent as lower-cost Chinese rivals such as Xiaomi experienced rapid growth.

Samsung regained its position as the world’s largest smartphone maker by volumes in the first quarter this year, according to market researcher International Data Corporation, just three months after Apple claimed the top spot for the first time.

IDC estimated that global iPhone shipments declined 10 per cent to 50.1 million in the first three months of 2024 compared with the same period in 2023, giving it a 21 per cent market share. Samsung, which launched its latest flagship Galaxy S24 phone in January, had a 23 per cent share after shipments fell just under 1 per cent year on year to 60.1 million.

The market’s strongest growth came from two Chinese manufacturers, in the latest indication of Apple’s struggles in the world’s largest smartphone market. Xiaomi sales surged 34 per cent to attain a 14 per cent market share, as the Beijing-based electronics group experienced a wave of publicity surrounding the debut of its electric car.


The world’s fastest-growing major smartphone maker is now Transsion, the Shenzhen-based manufacturer behind the Tecno, Itel and Infinix brands. Transsion, whose affordable handsets have helped it become Africa’s top smartphone maker, grew shipments by 85 per cent to 25.2 million units, putting it in fourth place by volumes ahead of its more established Chinese rival Oppo. Transsion is pushing into southeast Asia and attempting to move upmarket with a foldable phone.

“There is a shift in power among the top five companies, which will probably continue,” said Nabila Popal, research director at IDC. “Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the top five with aggressive growth in international markets.”

Global smartphone shipments increased 8 per cent year over year, according to IDC’s preliminary data, the third quarter of growth in a row.

Apple, however, is so far missing out on much of that broader industry recovery. Its shares have fallen about 5 per cent this year at a time when most of its Big Tech rivals have reported double-digit percentage stock gains.

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Despite consumers increasingly opting for more expensive devices that they hope will last longer, Apple has experienced a slump in iPhone sales in China. The US giant faces resurgent competition from rival Huawei in the premium segment and a state crackdown on the use of its devices by government employees.

At the same time, Apple is diversifying its manufacturing away from China. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, is visiting Vietnam this week as the iPhone maker plans to grow its supply chain there. Apple suppliers including Foxconn, Quanta and Luxshare have expanded production in Vietnam over the past year. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024