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Smartphone sales recorded the slowest growth rate since 2013 in the second quarter of 2015 globally. Worldwide sales of smartphones to end users totaled 330 million units, an increase of 13.5% over the same period in 2014.
Emerging Asia/Pacific (excluding China), Eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa were the fastest-growing regions, driven by good performance from Chinese and local vendors. By contrast, smartphone sales in China fell for the first time year over year, recording a 4% decline.
"While demand for lower-cost 3G and 4G smartphones continued to drive growth in emerging markets, overall smartphone sales remained mixed region by region in the second quarter of 2015," said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner.
"China is the biggest country for smartphone sales, representing 30% of total sales of smartphones in the second quarter of 2015. Its poor performance negatively affected the performance of the mobile phone market in the second quarter," said Gupta. "China has reached saturation -its phone market is essentially driven by replacement, with fewer first-time buyers. Beyond the lower-end phone segment, the appeal of premium smartphones will be key for vendors to attract upgrades and to maintain or grow their market share in China."
Despite the launch of new S6 models, Samsung's premium phones continued to be challenged by Apple's large-screen iPhones. Samsung lost 4.3 percentage points in market share and declined 5.3% in unit sales in the second quarter of 2015. Huawei recorded the highest sales growth rate of 46.3%, thanks to strong overseas sales and 4G smartphone sales in China.
iPhone sales increased 36%, which helped Apple gain 2.4 percentage points in market share. Apple recorded strong iPhone replacements in both emerging and mature markets - and particularly in China. Total iPhone sales in China grew 68% to 11.9 million units.
In the smartphone operating system (OS) market, Android's global share was affected by the weak performance of China in the second quarter of 2015 and the strong performance in China of Apple, which has taken share from Android for the last three quarters.
"Android saw its lowest year-over-year growth of 11% with share reaching 82.2% in the second quarter of 2015," said Gupta. Microsoft continued to struggle to generate wider demand for Windows Phone devices - even at the lower end. "In light of Microsoft's recent cuts in its mobile hardware business, we'll await signs of its long-term commitment in the smartphone market."
"The low barrier to entry into the Android segment will continue to encourage an array of new players, adding to further disruptions coming from Chinese manufacturing and innovative Internet players with new business models that are not reliant on hardware margins," said Gupta.
Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 446 million units during the second quarter of 2015. The performance was flat (0.4%) year over year. Vendors that are focused on the emerging markets, such as Huawei, ZTE, TCL Communication and Micromax, benefited from high demand in these markets, while global vendors such as Sony, Samsung and HTC struggled to achieve growth at the high end of the market.