Gartner: Smartphone sales growth has reached its lowest point in recent years

by: Andrew GrushFebruary 18, 2016

nexus 6p vs samsung galaxy note 5 aa (13 of 26)

For years now, we’ve seen major markets like the United States and Europe become increasingly saturated when it comes to mobile devices growth. That’s why it is no surprise that a new report from Gartner suggests global smartphones sales in Q4 2015 experienced the slowest growth that this industry has seen since 2008.

So who grew in Q4 2015? Certainly not Apple, which actually saw iPhone sales decline 4.4 per cent when compared to Q4 of 2014.

In fact, Samsung and Huawei were the only two of the top five smartphone vendors that saw growth that quarter. Looking back at 2015 on the whole, we see a similar picture of slowed growth. Samsung actually declined a bit for the year, from 24.7% in 2014 to 22.5% in 2015, and Apple only saw only minor growth for the whole year at 15.9% versus 2014’s 15.4% global marketshare.


Huawei, on the other hand, actually grew from 5.5% to 7.3%, seeing the biggest growth out of the top 5 mobile vendors (Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi). With the success of the Nexus 6P and its continued growth outside of China, we can’t say we are too surprised.

The good news for Android as a platform is that it continues to grow, even if things have slowed down a bit. During Q4 2015 Android’s marketshare rose to 80.7, versus 76% in Q4 2014. In contrast, Apple’s iOS market shrank from 20.4% in Q4 2014 to 17.7% in Q4 2015.


Looking forward, we can expect Chinese and Indian OEMs to continue to chip away at the bigger players, largely due to more aggressive pricing strategies and a better understanding of emerging markets. As pricing continues to drop, the low-end and mid-range will rise as the real battleground for consumers, something we’ve already seen start to happen over the last few years. Summing up the situation, Analyst Roberta Cozza recently stated:

During the next five years we expect growth in the smartphone market to come mostly from emerging markets. Basic and lower-end smartphones will account for two-thirds of smartphone sales by 2019; in the same year, only 20 per cent of smartphone sales will come from mature markets.

Moto G4 Plus -9See also: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)441

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While hard times might lie ahead for manufacturers as they attempt to figure out how to best grow in a slowing (and changing) market, things actually look pretty rosy for consumers. In 2015, we saw the birth of flagship-level devices at $300 – $400 price points, and we imagine things will get even more aggressive in 2016. It’s not just pricing that we’ll benefit from, though.

For companies like Samsung and Apple, growth in the premium market will come from “stealing it” from the competition. That means we can expect flagship devices to work even harder to set themselves apart and win over consumer affection, and that means more out-of-the-box thinking like LG’s magic slot. It also means companies will likely do a much better job of listening to what its fans actually want – like with Samsung’s rumored return of microSD and waterproofing.

For those in emerging markets, aggressive pricing will allow consumers in these areas to afford smartphones that provide the same kind of power we saw from flagships just 2 to 4 years ago. Case and point, the $4 smartphone we wrote about yesterday.

What do you think the slow-down means for the mobile industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • SilentPatriot

    Just upgraded the trusty old Galaxy S3 to a “new, never used” S5 a few months ago from a 3rd party mall kiosk vendor. Unless I find a really good deal on a Nexus 6P or something comparable coming down the pipeline, I’m probably set for a couple more years.

  • Shemploo

    Too bad none of the Xiaomi phones seem to be doing AMOLED, I’ve been spoiled and don’t want to ever go back.

  • eilegz

    phones are reaching the point that its “good enough”. In a way that dont need to be replaced every 18 months, the mid low segment its getting good and flagship its getting more expensive. The drop in sales its expected.

    • teomor

      And also, phones are getting bigger and bigger, even the mid low segment, which is unfortunate. That’s why Apple is coming back with a smaller iPhone this year.

  • truth_cutz

    I would think it’s due to the end of phone subsidies. If I have to pay full price, I don’t’ feel the need to upgrade every 20 months or so.

  • Bill K

    sounds like folks are starting to wise up to this smartphone fad and going back to talking with each other the old fashioned way. my wife and I got a cordless phone back in 1993 and haven’t looked back. some technological fads just aren’t meant to last :)

  • Osakwe tochukwu

    Part of the reason is that new phones dont offer anything significantly new to worth upgrading as often as possible.

  • Sivasarma Nallaikumaran

    Android Authority – Hello, Apple reseller sites (Samsung hater) Don’t hide the facts. Samsung was the top smartphone vendor for both Q4 2015 as well as the complete year.

  • Tyler McLarty

    I think that the problem could be that older handsets still make the cut. There isn’t a real benefit to upgrade before your contract is up (for those that are in the carrier trap). For instance I have a HTC One M8 and everything still runs great, the camera is still decent, games fly with a slight hiccup rarely ever, and it just got updated to Marshmallow. Until my contract is up I won’t even ponder upgrading no matter what new features are released, so maybe having a new flagship with expected record breaking sales by the manufacturers is a little unrealistic, not everybody needs a new phone every year, and those that do possibly aren’t going to go for the big guys, there’s ton’s of budget options.

    Also, don’t Android app developers gear their usage stats to the low end phones knowing that the app they create will run on the cheapest budget phone as well as the best of the best?