Smartphone sales drop for the first time ever

Smartphone sales drop for the first time ever

2017 may have been a record year for smartphone sellers, but the market is weakening: for the first time since 2004, there were fewer smartphone sales in the fourth quarter.


407.8 million devices in Q4

According to market research firm Gartner, 408 million smartphones were sold in last year’s fourth quarter, which is a decent amount, but down 5.6 % compared to the same quarter in the year before. Gartner says it is the first year-on-year drop since it started measuring these sales back in 2004.


Remarkable fact: the drop mainly target the two market leaders, Samsung and Apple. The South Koreans sold 74 million devices (down 3.59 %) and the Americans 73.2 million devices down 5.02 %). Samsung still gained market share (20.5 to 20.9 %), but Apple lost ground (14.4 to 14 %). Chinese competitors Huawei and Xiaomi performed a lot better, selling 43.9 and 28.2 million smartphones respectively. Huawei surpassed the 10 % market share milestone for the first time (10.8 %) and Xiaomi nearly doubled its own market share (from 3.6 to 6.9 %).


Nearly 1.5 billion smartphones in 2017

Gartner gives multiple possible explanations for the declining smartphone markets. Consumers that are not interested in a smartphone’s bells and whistles prefer a good, old-fashioned phone, a so-called “feature phone” instead of a “low cost smartphone” as the latter often lacks quality. Consumers that require a new smartphone increasingly prefer a “premium smartphone”, which they will use for a longer period of time, which in turn offsets its higher price. Manufacturers can also not keep up the technical advances that usually prompt consumers to get rid of their current device in favour of a newer model.


Regardless of the weaker sales, 2017 was still a record year for smartphone sales, with 1,495,959,000 devices. That is close to 1.5 billion, up 2.7 % compared to 2016. Android is still by far the most popular OS (86 %), followed by iOS with 14 %.