Home Mobility Apple dominates as US smartphone sales fall in Q1

Smartphone sales in the US for the first quarter of 2018 fell by 11% year-on-year, the analyst firm Counterpoint says, quoting data from its Market Pulse program.

The number sold in Q1 was 38.7 million, down from 43.7 million in the corresponding quarter a year ago.

Apple took the top five spots for models sold, with the iPhone 8 (64GB), iPhone X (64GB and 256GB), iPhone 8 Plus (64GB) and iPhone 8 (256GB) figuring in that order.

Sixth spot went to the Samsung Galaxy S8 (64GB), followed by the iPhone 2 (32GB), the S8 Plus (64GB), the Galaxy Note 8 (64GB) and the Motorola Moto E4.

Counterpoint research director Jeff Fieldhack said sales drops after a holiday period were to be expected.

counterpoint graph3

But, he added, "there are several other factors that make this the weakest Q1 in recent years. For one, post-paid device promotions were not as enticing in the first quarter – most requiring a new line.

"In addition, pre-paid did not receive its usual February and Q1 bump as pre-paid service promos cooled. The ramp-down of government-subsidised ‘Lifeline’ programs have cut into pre-paid device volumes. BYOD and refurbished devices also continue to impact new device sales.”

The Counterpoint figures highlighted the following:

  • Apple growth percentage is declining during launch periods. However, it has gained overall US market share because of its increasing installed base and B2B and prepaid channel improvements.
  • Samsung growth curve is slipping. There is increased difficulty maintaining momentum through product lifecycles.
  • During periods of pre-paid weakness, "others" performance declines. Others saw a drastic dip during the first quarter.
  • The overall US market growth is on a downward slope outside Apple launch periods.

Fieldhack said: "With the weakness within pre-paid, there was weakness from brands catering to pre-paid services such as Alcatel, Coolpad, and, to a lesser extent, ZTE.

counterpoint graph2"Many of the secondary brands selling unlocked online also saw volumes decrease year-over-year. Finally, the prominent pre-paid services reduced the amount of core brands carried. Instead, opting to carry full portfolios of major handset brands which are easier sells due to their brand recognition.”

The trade tensions between the US and China also had an effect on sales. Counterpoint research analyst Maurice Klaehne commented: "Another factor for the decline may be attributed to the current China-US trade war adversely affecting the sales of Chinese devices. The situation has intensified with the suspension of ZTE’s licence to use US-sourced components under EAR rules.

"However, the full extent of the damage to ZTE’s business is currently unclear as new developments seem to arise every day. Huawei is also under scrutiny by the US Justice Department for violating trade terms and selling to North Korea and Iran.”

Klaehne said the pre-paid channel was likely to see most shake-up over the next few months if pressure on ZTE did not ease up.

"ZTE has a strong presence within pre-paid and held 11% share of the total US handset market in Q1," he said.

"We expect the OEM to sell off its remaining inventory over the first half of 2018, leading to a sizeable chunk of the pre-paid market (being) up for the taking. Alcatel and Motorola are two potential OEMs that might move in and fill the void.”

Graphics: courtesy Counterpoint

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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