Apple overtakes Samsung for the first time in 13 years

In a significant shift, Apple’s iPhone surpassed Samsung Electronics devices to become the best-selling smartphone series in 2023, marking the first time South Korea’s largest company lost the top spot since 2010.

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According to estimates from research firm IDC, the iPhone captured a fifth of the global market with nearly 235 million shipments last year. Meanwhile, Samsung, facing a double-digit slump in shipments, came in second with 226.6 million units, overtaking Chinese competitors like Xiaomi. Apple’s dominance over a full year, not just during the holiday quarter, is unprecedented and indicates its ability to weather the industrywide slump more effectively than its rivals.

Apple’s success can be attributed to aggressive offers that attracted a shift towards premium devices. Despite a somewhat tepid reception for the iPhone 15 in China, its largest international market, where Huawei Technologies’ popularity is growing amid a widening ban on government use, Apple managed to expand shipments in 2023.

IDC Research Director Nabila Popal noted, “While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple. All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market. Apple’s ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market.”

The shift toward higher-priced smartphones has been driven by enticing trade-in offers and interest-free financing, according to IDC. Apple was the sole player in the global top three to achieve growth, registering a 3.7% increase. However, it hasn’t been completely immune to the broader decline, with sales in China of the latest-generation iPhone significantly down from its predecessor.

Apple faces challenges in the Chinese market from local tech giant Huawei, which reclaimed some lost market share by introducing the Mate60 Pro smartphone with an advanced made-in-China processor. In response, Apple recently introduced rare discounts on the iPhone in China, offering as much as a 5% reduction per handset in an effort to counteract further sales erosion.