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Counterpoint Research: Global smartphone shipments dropped 4% annually in 2018

Among the five top smartphone brands worldwide, Huawei and Xiaomi were the only companies that witnessed significant year-over-year (YoY) growth in terms of smartphone shipments last year. That's according to a new report from Counterpoint Research, which also revealed that global shipments for smartphones fell 4% annually in the last calendar year.

Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, said that 2018 marked the first time that the global smartphone market saw a full-year decline, owing to "lengthening replacement cycles in developed markets like US, China, and Western Europe." This was despite the efforts of smartphone OEMs to bake new features into their mobile device offerings including artificial intelligence, multi-lens camera modules, full-screen displays, and under-display fingerprint sensors.

Pathak added that consumers chose to hold onto their device longer due to a lack of innovation and higher price tags of newer smartphones. He said:

"Smartphone OEMs in 2019 are looking to launch devices with innovative designs and specifications such as 5G, foldable displays, punch-hole cameras, full-screen in-display fingerprint scanners to lure consumers to upgrade. With Chinese OEMs Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi (HOVX) improving their quality and taking the lead at launching these new features, it has become tough for both global brands and local brands alike to sustain market share.”

For the calendar year 2018, Samsung led the pack in the most number of handsets shipped worldwide at 291.8 million. However, the figure represents an 8% drop compared to 2017. Apple also suffered a 4% YoY smartphone shipment drop. Meanwhile, Huawei and Xiaomi were the big winners among the five leading brands, having seen a 34% and 26% YoY shipment increase, respectively. OPPO, on the other hand, didn't see a significant change to its global shipments between 2017 to 2018.

For the fourth quarter of 2018, however, the global phone shipments painted a different picture. Apple and Xiaomi were among the big losers, with both companies having suffered a 15% decline compared to the same period in 2017. Overall, Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, HMD Global, and Alcatel saw growth in their smartphone shipments during the final quarter of 2018.

Counterpoint Research also predicts that Huawei may outpace Apple in 2019, assuming it doesn't suffer the same fate as ZTE, which was cut off from U.S. suppliers earlier last year. That said, Huawei is now facing charges of fraud filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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