BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The dominant positions of the smartphone market's two leading players -- Samsung and Apple -- are slowly deteriorating as second-tier manufacturers in China, including Lenovo and Huawei, kick up the competition.
Although Samsung continued to hold the top spot with a 31.2% share of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2014, its share fell from 32.4% in the year-ago period, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, a market research firm based in Boston. The quarter also marked the Android phone maker's first annual market share loss in the smartphone category since the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the report.
Apple's loss was even steeper, falling to 15.3% share globally from 17.5% in the first quarter of 2013. Collectively, the companies accounted for 47% of the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2014, down from 50% a year ago, according to Strategy Analytics.
"There is more competition than ever coming from the second-tier smartphone brands," said Linda Sui, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, in a press release.
Huawei and Lenovo each garnered 4.7% of the market during the first quarter of 2014. Huawei maintained its market share as it quickly expands in Europe, while Lenovo gained some traction by pushing into regions outside of China, including Russia, she said.
"If the recent Lenovo takeover of Motorola gets approved by various governments in the coming months, this will eventually create an even larger competitive force that Samsung and Apple must contend with in the second half of this year."
While Samsung and Apple try to fend off their Chinese counterparts, they still have to worry about each other. Samsung shipped 89 million smartphones worldwide, while Apple shipped 43.7 million iPhones worldwide, according to the report.
"Samsung continues to face tough competition from Apple at the higher end of the smartphone market and from Chinese brands like Huawei at the lower end," said Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics. "Apple remains strong in the premium smartphone segment, but a lack of presence in the entry-level category continues to cost it lost volumes in fast-growing emerging markets such as Latin America."
Indeed, robust demand in regions outside of North America helped drive 33% growth in global smartphone shipments, which reached 285 million units in the first quarter of 2014, from 213.9 million in the year-ago quarter.
"Smartphone growth was mixed on a regional basis during the quarter, with healthy demand in Asia counterbalanced by sluggish volumes across North America due to changes in the operator subsidy mix," said Ken Hyers, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.
— Ismini Scouras is a freelance writer for EE Times.