Tech Research

Smart Phones Hit All-Time High as Samsung, Apple See Mixed Results

In a record-setting quarter for smart phones, the two top manufacturers saw their share erode as Lenovo, LG and newcomer Xiaomi experienced double- and triple-digit gains, according to preliminary data released by market research firm IDC.

The total number of smart phones shipped in the third calendar quarter of 2014 reached 327.6 million units —  up from 261.7 million in the same period last year. That figure, an all-time high, also represents sequential growth of 8.7 percent over the second quarter of this year.

Samsung remained, by far, the leading manufacturer during the quarter, with twice the shipments of its next-nearest competitor, Apple. Samsung shipped 78.1 million phones in the third quarter, representing 23.8 percent of total handsets. However, that was a decline of nearly 7 million units from last year's total of 85 million units. The company's market share declined by nearly 9 points year over year.

Apple, meanwhile, shipped 39.3 million units worldwide, up nearly 6 million units from Q3 2014's 33.8 million shipments. But Apple's overall share also declined in the third quarter, from 12.9 percent in Q3 2013 to 12 percent in Q3 2014.

"Apple took the wraps off its highly anticipated iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and in the process posted its largest third-quarter volume ever. Although the company posted strong results of 10 million units sold during its initial launch weekend, what should not be overlooked is the sustained demand for its older iPhone 5S and 5C models, which comprised the bulk of its volume for the quarter," according to IDC. "Samsung remained the clear leader in the worldwide smartphone market, but was the only company among the top five to see its shipment volume decline year over year. With continued competitive pressure from nearly every side coupled with cooling demand for its high-end devices, the company's volumes have fallen from their previous highs at the start of the year. Although Samsung has long relied on its high-end devices, its mid-range and low-end models drove volume for the quarter and subsequently drove down [average selling prices]."

Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi debuted in the top 5 at the No. 3 position with 17.3 million units shipped in the third quarter, representing 211.3 percent growth over the same period las year. Xiaomi captured 5.3 percent of the market in Q3 2014, more than double its 2.1 percent share in the same period in 2013.

Nos. 4 and 5 Lenovo and LG came in at a dead heat in the quarter. Lenovo's shipments increased 38 percent year over year to 16.9 million units, representing a 5.2 percent market share (up from 4.7 percent last year), while LG saw a unit increase of 39.8 percent to 16.8 million units, representing a 5.1 percent market share (Up from 4.6 percent last year).

"Despite rumors of a slowing market, smartphone shipments continue to see record-setting volumes," said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, in a prepared statement. "We've finally reached a point where most developed markets are experiencing single-digit growth while emerging markets are still growing at more than 30 percent collectively. In these markets, smartphone price points are making mobile computing possible where we once expected feature phones to remain dominant. This is great news for overall volumes, but the challenge has now become how to make money on devices that are quickly becoming commodity products. Outside of Apple, many are struggling to do this."

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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