Smartphone sales remain an important IC market driver in 2015

Smartphones first accounted for more than 50 percent of total quarterly cellphone shipments in 1Q13. In 4Q15, smartphones are forecast to reach 435 million units or 80 percent of total cellphones shipped according to data in IC Insights’ newly released Update to its IC Market Drivers Report (Figure 1). On an annual basis, smartphones first surpassed the 50 percent penetration level in 2013 (54 percent) and are forecast to represent 93 percent of total cellphone shipments in 2018.

Figure 1

Figure 1

In contrast, non-smartphone cellphone shipments dropped by 18 percent in 2013 and 23 percent in 2014.  Moreover, IC Insights expects the 2015 non-smartphone cellphone unit shipment decline to be steeper than 2014’s drop with a decline of 27 percent. Total cellphone unit shipments grew by only 5 percent in 2014 and are forecast to grow by only 3 percent in 2015 (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2

Samsung and Apple dominated the smartphone market in both 2013 and 2014.  In total, these two companies shipped 457 million smartphones and held a combined 47 percent share of the total smartphone market in 2013.  These two companies shipped over 500 million smartphones in 2014 (503.9 million), but their combined smartphone unit marketshare dropped seven percentage points to 40 percent.  It appears that both Samsung and Apple are losing smartphone marketshare to the up-and-coming Chinese producers like Xiaomi, Yulong/Coolpad, and TCL.

In contrast to the weakening fortunes of Nokia, BlackBerry, and HTC, 2013-2014 smartphone sales from China-based Lenovo (which acquired Motorola’s smartphone business from Google in October of 2014), Huawei, Xiaomi, Yulong/Coolpad, and TCL surged.  Combined, the six top-10 China-based smartphone suppliers shipped 359 million smartphones in 2014, a 79 percent increase from the 201 million smartphones these six companies shipped in 2013.  As a result, the top six Chinese smartphone suppliers together held a 29 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market in 2014, up eight points from the 21 percent share these companies held in 2013.

In early 2015, there were numerous reports of slowing in the Chinese smartphone market.  Since most of the Chinese smartphone producer’s sales are to Chinese customers, this slowdown became evident in their 1Q15 smartphone sales figures.  In total, the top six China-based smartphone suppliers shipped 83.4 million smartphones and held a 25 percent share of the 1Q15 worldwide smartphone market, down four points from their 29 percent combined marketshare in 2014.

Chinese smartphone suppliers primarily serve the China and Asia-Pacific marketplaces.  Their smartphones, unlike those from Apple, Sony, and HTC are low-cost low-end handsets that typically sell for less than $200.  In some cases, smartphones sold by the Chinese companies have been known to sell for as little as $50.

With much of the growth in the smartphone market currently taking place in developing countries such as China and India, low-end smartphones are expected to be a driving force in the smartphone market over the next few years.  IC Insights defines low-end smartphones as those that sell for $200 or less and high-end smartphones as those that sell for greater than $200.


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