Visitors use their mobile phone at a Huawei promotional stand. Photo: AFP

Headwinds for the smartphone market continued into this year, new market research shows, but ascendant challenger Huawei has managed to weather the storm.

Shipment volumes were down 6.6% in the first quarter of 2019, industry market research firm IDC found, but China’s leading smartphone maker managed to grow its shipment volume.

“This quarter’s results are a clear sign that 2019 will be another down year for worldwide smartphone shipments,” according to IDC. “The only highlight from a vendor perspective was Huawei, which made a strong statement by growing volume and share despite market headwinds,” the group added.

Huawei’s strides are coming at the expense of its strongest competitors in the global market, Apple and Samsung. Huawei overtook Apple last year to be the second largest smartphone vendor in terms of volume.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Huawei is laser focused on growing its stature in the world of mobile devices, with smartphones being its lead horse,” Ryan Reith, program vice-president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, said.

“The overall smartphone market continues to be challenged in almost all areas, yet Huawei was able to grow shipments by 50%, not only signifying a clear number two in terms of market share but also closing the gap on the market leader Samsung. This new ranking of Samsung, Huawei, and Apple is very likely what we’ll see when 2019 is all said and done.”

Huawei’s inroads in the global market have come despite being effectively cut out of the US market, where mobile service providers face political pressure against partnering with the Chinese firm. In the US, most mobile phones are sold as part of service packages with carriers.

According to IDC, Huawei is now “within striking distance” of taking the top spot from Samsung, thanks in part to momentum in the domestic Chinese market.

Apple, meanwhile, saw first-quarter shipments drop by more than 30%, as competitors continued to eat away at the company’s market share.

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