Preliminary Q2 2015 Global Smartphone Market and Observations

I thought I’d give our subscribers a quick view of what the landscape is shaping up for with regards to Q2 global smartphone shipments.

The top 5 looks like this:
#1 Samsung
#2 Apple
#3 Huawei
#4 Xiaomi
#5 Lenovo

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 10.36.21 AM

For Samsung, we believe shipments will be in the low 70m range, 73-74m to be exact. Our Apple estimates are for 53m units sold. Huawei announced 50m smartphones sold in the first half of 2015 which, by doing the math on first quarter sales, means 32m smartphones shipped. Xiaomi announced 34m smartphones shipped in first half of 2015 for first quarter shipments of 20m.

For philosophical reasons, I do not lump Lenovo and Motorolla sales together. If we were to combine the two, Lenovo would be #4 and Xiaomi #5.

Folks love to talk about Xiaomi but it is clear their initial target of 100m smartphones sold in 2015 is unlikely. This is why they recently have publicly changed to a range of 80-100m smartphones as a goal. In all honesty, even 80m may be a stretch at this point. I’ve been telling people to keep an eye on Huawei as a more interesting Chinese player right now than Xiaomi. While I think Xiaomi has the better business model for the long haul, Huawei has quite a bit of assets and large amounts of capital behind them. Huawei is not just a smartphone manufacturer but also owns HiSilicon which is a semiconductor company supplying networking equipment as well as connected devices. And Huawei has an infrastructure business selling global telecom equipment, among other categories. They have many parts of the business to help fuel their R&D. They are well positioned in several categories from a business and revenue standpoint. That is translating into continued aggressive designs in smartphone hardware and globally their sales are increasing faster than Xiaomi’s. Huawei is, for now, the one to watch and perhaps this battle between Xiaomi and Huawei will get more interesting in 2016.

The markets where Huawei is starting to pick up steam is in Brazil (LATAM as a whole), SE Asia, India, and parts of Africa. In many markets, Huawei is now starting to take share from Samsung and compete strongly with local vendors as their branding and quality perception is increasing. As I said, I still think they are the Chinese company to watch right now with global smartphone sales.

Lastly, we still hear tech news sites insinuate these Chinese brands are coming to the US market in force. This is simply not true. The only area where companies like ZTE have any share is with pre-paid, very low-end smartphones. These are areas the carriers don’t really care much about as they make such little money off these customers. No Chinese brand has any relevant share of the post-paid market and I see no signs of that changing. Pre-paid is growing but very, very slowly and I emphasize these are not profitable customers. We remain pessimistic, given what we see about the US smartphone dynamics, that any Chinese branded handset becomes relevant in the US for the time being.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

77 thoughts on “Preliminary Q2 2015 Global Smartphone Market and Observations”

  1. About Huawei. They’re interesting for several reasons:
    1- they’re almost full-stack, in particular they have highly integrated SoCs that include the radios (Apple for example don’t have radios), and contrary to Samsung they seem to use *only* their in-house SoCs, which is a bit of an issue at times (their GPUs are… midrange at best), but that doesn’t seem to deter them from sticking with only their own SoCs.
    2- They’re doing the two-brand thing I think is the only way to be successful in both the high and the low+mid range. Huawei is rather high-end, Honor is low/mid range (work in progress though, right now the line-up is not that clear-cut)
    3- They seem to have picked up the “no-nonsense” mantle: they mostly offer huge batteries (2-3 days on some models), an SD slot, an FM radio, screen resolution closer to lowly Retina than to the Full/Quad HD of current Android flagships, ditto for cameras…
    4- They’ve also picked up Samsung’s “supersize” boldness, they’ve got 6″ and 7″ models (my phones, last year and this year 😉 )

    Re: US relevance, Chinese players, especially Huawei, are becoming relevant in France/Europe, which might be a harbinger of things to come in the US. They do have the right product, they just need to commit to the market. I think the US market is mostly subsidized still, so there might be lower-hanging fruit elsewhere.

    1. In many markets where they are doing well, there is no longer a poor quality perception around Chinese handset brands. That stigma used to be there and it isn’t any more. The issue I have with US market is how much money they would have to spend on branding to be relevant. You can only really do that when you have huge margins, or are willing to spend that kind of money. Not sure Chinese companies have it in them to do what needs to be done to be relevant in the US.

      1. I’m not aware of any huge ad campaign they did in France. They did lots of PR, getting most everyone to run articles/reviews about them, but then pretty much let the products speak for themselves. In a value-conscious market/segment, that’s a valid choice: people are probably more sensitive to a 10-20% lower price than to ads ?

        1. Yes the point was not that they did marketing in other markets, it is less needed there especially in parts of Europe not the UK, where there is a stronger pragmatic buying mindset, I’d include France, Spain, and Germany in particular where we see that mindset as prevalent.

          I mean it is necessary in the US market or they won’t get anywhere.

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