TAIPEI — Apple took the lead from Samsung in smartphone shipments during the fourth quarter of 2017, mainly on the strength of a wide range of handsets including its latest iPhone X, according to market research firm IDC.

Apple iPhone volumes reached 77.3 million units compared with 74.1 million for Samsung during the quarter, according to the Feb. 1 IDC report.

"Apple continues to prove that having numerous models at various price points bodes well for bringing smartphone owners to iOS," the IDC report said. "Although demand for the new higher priced iPhone X may not have been as strong as many expected, the overall iPhone lineup appealed to a wider range of consumers in both emerging and developed markets."

Volumes pushed Apple past Samsung and back into first place in the smartphone market, largely because of iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X, according to the report. 

Smartphone vendors shipped a total of 403.5 million units during the fourth quarter of 2017, a 6.3 percent decline from the 430.7 million units shipped in the final quarter of 2016, the report said. For 2017, a total of 1.472 billion units shipped, falling about 1 percent from 1.473 billion in 2016. Developed markets such as China and the United States shrank during the quarter as consumers appeared to be in no rush to upgrade to the newest generation of higher-priced flagship devices, according to the report.

"The latest flock of posh flagships may have had consumers hitting the pause button in the holiday quarter," said Anthony Scarsella, research manager for mobile phones at IDC. "With ultra-high-end flagships all the rage in 2017, many of these new bezel-less wonders proved to be more of a luxury than a necessity. Even though we have seen new full-screen displays, advanced biometrics, and improved artificial intelligence, the new and higher price points could be outweighing the benefits of having the latest and greatest device in hand."

Brands outside the top five struggled to maintain momentum while those in the value segment such as Honor, Vivo, Xiaomi, and Oppo offered incredible competition at the low end, according to IDC. Brands like Apple, Samsung, and Huawei maintained their stronghold on the high end, IDC said.

Smartphone sales Q4 2017

 

Samsung remained the overall leader in the worldwide smartphone market for 2017 despite losing out to Apple in the fourth quarter. Samsung finished the year with 317.3 million shipments, up 1.9 percent from the 311.4 million shipments in 2016. The pending arrival of the company’s next flagship, the Galaxy S9, may represent the brand's best chance of winning over both new and current customers in 2018, according to IDC.

Huawei continued to hold the number-three position. The company shipped 41.0 million units, down 9.7 percent from the 45.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Huawei’s Honor brand helped push sales both inside and outside of China. In 2017, the company shipped 153.1 million units, up 9.9 percent from 139.3 million units in 2016.

AT&T and Verizon recently cut plans to bring Huawei flagships to the U.S., the report said. Entering the U.S. through an official carrier remains critical for Huawei if it wishes to eventually dethrone market leaders Apple and Samsung, according to IDC.

In fourth place for the full year of 2017, Xiaomi doubled its share to 7 percent from 3.3 percent during the holiday quarter last year. The company has continued to focus on growth outside China, with India and Russia being two of its largest markets. The company has been expanding its Mi stores and Mi service centers, especially in markets like Indonesia.