Samsung retained its leadership position in the worldwide smartphone market for the quarter and the year with 85.6 million units shipped in 4Q15, up 14 percent from last year.
The Korean giant finished the year with 324.8 million shipments, which is up only 2.1 percent from the 318.2 million shipments in 2014. With continuously increasing pressure in the high end from Apple, and at the low end to midrange from Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, and others, Samsung faces a multi-front battle.
According to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation, IDC, Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphone vendors shipped a total of 399.5 million units during the fourth quarter of 2015 (4Q15), resulting in 5.7 percent growth when compared to the 377.8 million units shipped in the last quarter of 2014.
For the full year, the worldwide smartphone market saw a total of 1432.9 million units shipped, marking the highest year of shipments on record, up 10.1 percent from the 1301.7 million units shipped in 2014.
Apple hit a new high with 74.8 million units shipped, albeit just 0.3 million more than the same quarter one year ago.
Continued demand for Apple’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, particularly in China and the U.S., elevated Apple in 2015 to 231.5 million units shipped in the year.
This represents 20.2 percent growth from the 192.7 million units shipped in 2014. The combination of new innovative features such as Apple Pay and Force Touch, combined with a new Rose Gold colour, better performance and increased speed, helped drive upgrades and attracted Android switchers in record numbers.
Huawei was the biggest winner in the quarter, with the strongest year-over-year growth among the top five vendors at 37 percent. It also became the fourth mobile phone vendor in history to ship over 100 million smartphones in a year (preceded only by Nokia, Samsung and Apple).
Of the key brands originating from China, Huawei has consistently expanded its presence and share on the back of affordable handsets in emerging markets, combined with increasingly competitive flagship models.
Lenovo, just over one year after its acquisition of Motorola, was still trying to find its feet amidst organisational changes, while facing greater competition in its domestic market from smaller, local competitors at the low end.
The Motorola brand, strong in 2014 in the Americas with the Moto G and Moto X, saw fewer groundbreaking new models in 2015. The Motorola name will be shortened to just “Moto” and be used for high-end devices, while the “Vibe” brand from Lenovo will represent the low-end. Lenovo will also put its faith entirely in Motorola as they have elected Moto to design, develop, and manufacture smartphone products going forward.
Xiaomi leaned heavily on the China market for growth, where volumes were still 90 percent domestic on average compared to international, despite ramping up in India and launching in Brazil. Xiaomi spent 2015 trying to encourage a transition away from the low-end range of models into more midrange models, although the bulk of shipments still rest on low-end volumes from Redmi line. On the basis of this growth, it was able to widen the gap from number 6.

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