EGHAM, UK – Global smartphone sales to end-users declined 2.7% in the first quarter, totaling 373 million units, according to Gartner. Despite its absence from the US, Huawei maintained its ranking as the No. 2 smartphone vendor worldwide and continued to reduce the gap with Samsung.

“Demand for premium smartphones remained lower than for basic smartphones, which affected brands such as Samsung and Apple that have significant stakes in high-end smartphones,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. “In addition, demand for utility smartphones declined as the rate of upgrading from feature phones to smartphones has slowed, given that 4G feature phones give users great advantages at a lower cost.”

Slowing innovation in flagship smartphones and rising prices continued to extend replacement cycles. The two countries that sell the most smartphones, the US and China, saw sales decline by 15.8% and 3.2%, respectively, in the first quarter of 2019.

In the first quarter, Samsung retained the top spot in worldwide smartphone sales, achieving 19.2% market share. Huawei achieved the highest year-over-year growth among the world’s top five, growing 44.5%, with smartphone sales totaling 58.4 million units. Sales of Huawei smartphones grew in all regions.

“Huawei did particularly well in two of its biggest regions, Europe and Greater China, where its smartphone sales grew by 69% and 33%, respectively,” said Gupta.

Huawei’s continued dominance in Greater China, where it commanded a 29.5% market share, helped it secure the No. 2 global smartphone vendor ranking.

“Unavailability of Google apps and services on Huawei smartphones, if implemented, will upset Huawei’s international smartphone business, which is almost half of its worldwide phone business.”

Despite a decline in its smartphone sales of 8.8% in the first quarter, Samsung remained the No. 1 smartphone vendor worldwide.

“Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy S10 smartphone portfolio, which received a good response. However, its impact was limited, as Samsung only started shipping the S10 at the end of the first quarter,” said Gupta. “Samsung also strengthened its mid-tier and entry-tier smartphone ranges with a refreshed A series and J series and the newly introduced M series, but aggressive competition from Chinese manufacturers limited their impact.”

Sales of Apple iPhones totaled 44.6 million units in the first quarter, a decline of 17.6% year-over-year.

“The price cut for iPhones across markets helped drive up demand but wasn’t enough to restore growth in the first quarter,” said Gupta. “Apple is facing longer replacement cycles as users struggle to see enough value benefits to justify replacing existing iPhones.”

Vivo beat Xiaomi to claim the No. 5 spot during the period. Vivo sold 27.4 million smartphones, while Xiaomi sold 27.2 million.

The latest features, such as in-display fingerprint scanner, slider camera, fast charging and almost bezel-less display, helped Vivo achieve double-digit smartphone sales growth.

“However, the company could do much better by expanding its range of its entry-tier smartphones and selling them in emerging Asia/Pacific markets,” said Gupta.

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