South Korean smartphone giant Samsung pipped iPhone maker Apple to become the leading smartphone manufacturer in the first quarter, according to market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

"While Apple managed to capture the top spot at the end of 2023, Samsung successfully reasserted itself as the leading smartphone provider in the first quarter," says Ryan Reith, group vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers.

While IDC expects these two companies to maintain their hold on the high end of the market, the resurgence of Huawei in China, as well as notable gains from Xiaomi, Transsion, OPPO/OnePlus, and vivo will likely have both OEMs looking for areas to expand and diversify.

“As the recovery progresses, we're likely to see the top companies gain share as the smaller brands struggle for positioning,” says Reith.

Samsung shipped 60.1 million units of smartphones in the first quarter compared with 50.1 million units shipped by Apple. Samsung’s market share stood at 20.8% against Apple’s 17.3%.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi shipped 40.8 million smartphones and cornered a 14.1% market share.

According to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, global smartphone shipments increased 7.8% year-over-year to 289.4 million units in the first quarter of 2024 (1Q24). While the industry is not completely out of the woods, as macroeconomic challenges remain in many markets, this marks the third consecutive quarter of shipment growth, a strong indicator that a recovery is well underway.

"The smartphone market is emerging from the turbulence of the last two years both stronger and changed," says Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team. "Firstly, we continue to see growth in value and average selling prices (ASPs) as consumers opt for more expensive devices knowing they will hold onto their devices longer. Secondly, there is a shift in power among the Top 5 companies, which will likely continue as market players adjust their strategies in a post-recovery world. Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets. In contrast, while the Top 2 players both saw negative growth in the first quarter, it seems Samsung is in a stronger position overall than they were in recent quarters," says Popal.

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against tech behemoth Apple for ‘monopolisation’ of smartphone markets. The DoJ was joined by 16 other state and district attorneys general. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleges that Apple illegally maintains a monopoly over smartphones by selectively imposing contractual restrictions on, and withholding critical access points from, developers.

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