Samsung has lost market share in the third quarter of 2014, while the top three Chinese manufacturers in the smartphone sector grew by four percentage points, according to a study by Gartner Inc.
In the third quarter of 2014, three of the top five smartphone vendors were Chinese. Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo expanded their collective market share by 4.1 percentage points.
''With the ability to undercut cost and offer top specifications, Chinese brands are well positioned to expand in the premium phone market too and address the needs of upgrade users that aspire to premium phones, but cannot afford Apple or Samsung high-end products,'' said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner.
The combined smartphone share of Apple and Samsung totaled 37 per cent, down 7 percentage points from the same period last year. ''The smartphone market is more than ever in flux as more players step up their game in this space,'' added Cozza.
Sales of Samsung's feature phones and smartphones declined in the third quarter of 2014, and the Korean handset major lost market share in both markets. Samsung's deepest decline came from feature phones, which decreased by 10.8 per cent year-over-year. Demand for Samsung's smartphones weakened mostly in Western Europe and Asia. Samsung's smartphone sales declined 28.6 per cent in China, the biggest market for Samsung.
The sales of iPhones grew 26 per cent in the third quarter of 2014. With the introduction of two large-screen phones for the first time, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple managed to neutralise the advantage of Android competitors.
Gartner expects Apple to experience its biggest ever fourth-quarter sales, with both of its large-screen phones seeing demand exceed supply since their launch.
Although Huawei moved into the third position during the quarter, there is still less than 1 million units between the bottom-three smartphone vendors in the top five.
Xiaomi made its debut among the top-five smarpthone vendors. It experienced the highest growth of the quarter, with an increase of 336 per cent driven by strong performance in China where it became market leader.
In the smartphone OS market, Android continued to increase its market share with a rise of 22 per cent. On the other hand, Windows lost market share.
''Microsoft needs to keep the momentum going from the third quarter, when Windows phone-based devices grew quarter-on-quarter thanks to the introduction of more mid-range devices,'' said Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner.
Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 455.8 million units in the third quarter, almost flat compared with the same period in 2013. Mobile phone sales were up in all regions except Latin America (down 7.4 per cent), Western Europe (down 13.5 per cent) and Japan (down 1.8 per cent).
"Samsung and Nokia experienced sharp double-digit declines in the third quarter, which let Apple get closer to Nokia, with only 5 million units separating these two vendors,'' said Cozza. ''The gap is also narrowing between the third and fourth positions, and the fourth quarter could be decisive for Huawei and LG.''
However, sales of smartphones to end users grew 20.3 per cent to reach 301 million units.
''Sales of feature phones declined 25 percent in the third quarter of 2014 because the difference in price between feature phones and low-cost Android smartphones is reducing further,'' said Cozza.
In the third quarter of 2014, smartphones accounted for 66 per cent of the total mobile phone market, and Gartner estimates that by 2018, nine out of 10 phones will be smartphones.
From a regional perspective, emerging markets exhibited some of the highest growths ever recorded with Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Africa achieving the highest increase in the third quarter of 2014, with sales of smartphones growing almost 50 percent year-over-year.
Among the mature markets, the US achieved the highest growth, with an 18.9 per cent increase in the third quarter of 2014, fostered by the launch of the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. Western Europe saw a decline of 5.2 per cent, the third consecutive decline this year.
''Over the holidays we expect record sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but we should not underestimate the Chinese vendors and local brands,'' said Zimmermann. ''Chinese players will continue to look at expanding in overseas emerging markets. In Europe prepaid country markets and attractive lost-cost LTE phones will also offer key opportunities for these brands.''
Gartner expects sales of smartphones to reach 1.2 billion units in 2014.