The smartphone industry recorded its first ever decline during the fourth quarter of 2017, according to Gartner.

On a global market with an output of 407.8 million units, down from 432 million units in the same period in 2016, the only top-five vendors to grow their sales were Huawei and Xiaomi. Curiously, the Gartner market report puts Samsung on top of the sales charts, while previous 2017 fourth quarter sales stats from IDC say Apple are king of the hill, on a slightly smaller overall global market.

According to Gartner research director Anshul Gupta, two main reasons factor into the market decline: "First, upgrades from feature phones to smartphones have slowed down due to a lack of quality "ultra-low-cost" smartphones and users preferring to buy quality feature phones. Second, replacement smartphone users are choosing quality models and keeping them longer, lengthening the replacement cycle of smartphones. Moreover, while demand for high quality, 4G connectivity and better camera features remained strong, high expectations and few incremental benefits during replacement weakened smartphone sales.”

Smartphone sales Q4 2017

Samsung heads the list with 18.2 percent of the market compared to Apple's 17.9. Samsung has seen a year-on-year sales decline of 3.6 percent, but instead managed to raise average sales prices thanks to its Galaxy S8 offerings. While Apple's new iPhones have been on store shelves starting the fourth quarter of 2017, helping it to record sales, Samsung is expected to unveil its new flagship models at Mobile World Congress, with an eye on boosting its first quarter of 2018 sales.

Elsewhere, Huawei and Xiaomi made gains on the top two, with the two Chinese competitors making enough gains to increase a combined 4.2 percentage points, while Samsung and Apple growth is stagnant. "Future growth opportunities for Huawei will reside in winning market share in emerging APAC and the U.S.," said Mr. Gupta. "Xiaomi's biggest market outside China is India, where it will continue to see high growth. Increasing sales in Indonesia and other markets in emerging APAC will position Xiaomi as a strong global brand."

Smartphone sales Q4 2017

The operating system market shares make for grim reading for companies such as Blackberry. With Google's Android growing to 85.9 percent and iOS sitting at 14.0 percent, other operating systems are left with only 0.1 percent of the market.

Smartphone sales Q4 2017