Apple is on track to challenge Samsung as the world’s top-selling smartphone supplier, according to fourth-quarter data from market research firm S. Apple’s smartphone shipments were close to or outpast those of its South Korean rivals during the crucial holiday shopping season, according to forecast data released Thursday by industry research firms.
Apple shipped 70.7 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, slightly more than Samsung’s 68.8 million, according to Market Research. Canalys estimates that Apple sold 78 million smartphones in the quarter, surpassing Samsung’s 71 million in the quarter. In contrast, researchers at IHS Markit concluded that Samsung sold 70.7 million smartphones, compared with 67.7 million for Apple.
Market research firms can only estimate because Apple stopped publishing data on its iPhone sales a year ago, and Samsung’s data includes total shipments of smartphones and feature phones. However, the consensus among various market research institutions is that the gap between the two main brands in the mobile phone sector is small.
The three market research firms also estimate that Huawei shipped 56 m smartphones in the quarter.
Apple’s shares hit new highs this week when it reported fourth-quarter results with record revenue and profits. Apple’s wearables and services business grew strongly in the quarter, and the iPhone smartphone business is once again the jewel in its crown. Samsung reported improved operating profit spree in its mobile business, but a prolonged slump in its memory chip business affected the company’s quarterly results. The memory chip business was once Samsung’s most profitable business.
The iPhone’s recovery seems largely due to the success of the iPhone 11 series. Apple’s start to slide early last year reversed in the last quarter. Apple has asked suppliers and chipmakers to increase production to meet higher-than-expected demand. In addition, Apple is said to be launching a lower-priced iPhone in March, which is expected to boost the company’s earnings.
IPhone sales typically increase when Apple launches a new model in the fourth quarter. Total shipments of Samsung’s smartphones in 2019 far outstripped those of Apple, which shipped 295 million, compared with 193 million, according to IHS. Samsung plans to upgrade its Galaxy flagship smartphone in February and launch a new foldable phone, and it says it will push 5G technology to mid-range smartphones for the rest of the year. The move is bound to put both companies in fierce competition throughout 2020.