Apple beats Samsung in phone sales for first time ever

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For the first time ever, Apple has taken out the top spot on the global smartphone seller list, overtaking its close rival Samsung. It paints an interesting picture of the market, where phone sales have slowed overall.

Analysis from the global tech research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that Apple sold the most phones in 2023 while its competitors slipped behind. Apple shipped more than 234 million units last year, up 3.7% from 2022.

Meanwhile, it’s the first time Samsung hasn’t claimed the number-one spot since 2010. The South Korean tech company shipped over 226.6 million phones in 2023, dropping 13.6% from its 2022 figures. It’s still very much a two-horse race for the biggest smartphone company, with a sizable gap between the other top five companies: Chinese brands Xiaomi, Oppo, and Transsion.

2023 marked a tough year for most smartphone companies. Despite still shipping 1.17 billion devices, it represented a 3.2% reduction from 2022. Apple launched the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro devices in September last year, while Samsung released the Galaxy S23 range, led by the top-end S23 Ultra. In a bid to get ahead of the competition, Samsung revealed its AI-powered Galaxy S24 slightly earlier than usual.

More people are gravitating towards premium, high-end devices that don’t need replacing as often as budget handsets. These more expensive devices account for more than 20% of the global market, according to the IDC.

Top five companies by global phone sales

Accounting for nearly 70% of phone sales across the world in 2023, these five companies led the way:

  1. Apple: 234.6 million
  2. Samsung: 226.6 million
  3. Xiaomi: 145.9 million
  4. Oppo: 103.1 million
  5. Transsion: 94.9 million

A further 361.8 million smartphone shipments were spread out among all the other brands across the world. Although devices running Android software are by far the most popular, it’s spread out over multiple different brands. iOS, meanwhile, is only available on iPhones.

“Apple certainly played a part in Samsung’s drop in rank, but the overall Android space is diversifying within itself,” IDC’s Ryan Reith said. “Huawei is back and making inroads quickly within China, brands like OnePlus, Honor, Google, and others are launching very competitive devices in the lower price range of the high end.”

As far as overall worth is concerned, Apple recently dropped down to the second-most valuable company, with Microsoft briefly taking its place.

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