In a groundbreaking shift, Apple Inc.’s iPhone has seized the crown from Samsung Electronics Co., emerging as the top-selling smartphone series globally in 2023. This marks the first time since 2010 that South Korea’s tech giant has conceded the leading position.
Apple’s remarkable success is not confined to a single quarter but spans the entire year, showcasing its resilience in the face of a broader industry downturn.
According to research firm IDC, the iPhone secured a remarkable fifth of the global market, with nearly 235 million shipments last year. In contrast, Samsung faced a double-digit decline in shipments, totaling 226.6 million, placing it second on the list, trailing behind Apple and surpassing other competitors like Xiaomi Corp.
While Apple has traditionally dominated the holiday quarter, its year-long surge ahead of Samsung is unprecedented. This shift suggests that Apple is navigating the industrywide slump more effectively than its counterparts. The company’s success can be attributed to aggressive promotions that have successfully lured consumers towards premium devices.
Despite a lukewarm reception for the iPhone 15 in China, Apple managed to expand its shipments in 2023. China, being its largest international market, posed challenges with Huawei Technologies Co.’s growing popularity and an expanding ban on government use affecting iPhone sales.
IDC research director Nabila Popal notes, “While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, the biggest winner is clearly Apple.”
Apple’s triumph comes amidst increased regulatory challenges and revived competition from Huawei in China. Nevertheless, its ongoing success is largely attributed to the growing trend of premium devices, constituting over 20% of the market.
The elevation in smartphone prices has been facilitated by enticing trade-in offers and interest-free financing, with Apple being the sole player in the global top three to achieve growth, recording a 3.7% increase.
However, Apple is not entirely immune to the broader decline, especially in China where sales of the latest-generation iPhone have significantly decreased compared to its predecessor.
Local tech giant Huawei, recovering from US sanctions, has regained market share by introducing the Mate 60 Pro smartphone powered by an advanced made-in-China processor. To counter this, Apple recently introduced rare discounts on the iPhone in China, up to 5% per handset, in an effort to mitigate further sales erosion.