Xiaomi Redmi 3-22

Market research firm IDC has published its report for the first quarter of 2016. The results reveal that a total of 334.9 million smartphones have been shipped globally so far this year, up ever so slightly form the 334.3 million handsets shipped last year. The market is clearly showing signs of saturation, and both Apple and Samsung have seen year-over-year declines in sales.

However, the biggest change in the market is that Lenovo and Xiaomi, two of last year’s largest and fastest growing smartphone manufacturers, have dropped out of the top five largest global vendors. The findings reveal that Lenovo and Xiaomi have been replaced in fourth and fifth positions by Chinese manufacturers OPPO and Vivo during the first quarter of 2016.

IDC Research suggests that two major factors may have been behind this swing. The first is that a large shift in the Chinese market has hit some of the countries traditionally strong players, with a decline in spending power causing some customers to look to alternative manufacturers.

The second reason may be that Chinese customers are still aspiring for higher end products, but very top-of-the-line products remain out of reach. Instead, customers are looking for brands in the middle of the market which offer unique high-end features. While Lenovo and Xiaomi have seen their average selling prices fall below $200, rival companies such as Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo are pricing many of their products in the sub-$250 category.

“Our assumption is that once first time buyers get a taste of life with a smartphone, once it’s time to buy a new device they look upstream a bit … Now, keep in mind we are talking about going from $150 to $250 on an unsubsidized device. So in comparison to mature markets this is very low cost, but for the majority of China that is pushing the means.” – Ryan Reith, IDC

This change at the top of the market may have come as a surprise to many industry observers. Xiaomi has consistently been one of the fastest growing smartphone manufacturers over the past couple of years, while Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola has greatly increased the company’s global presence. That said, both brands either have or will have new smartphones on the way this year, so things could looking very different again come Q1 2017.

It appears that “super mid-range” manufacturers could be best positioned for a strong 2016, but we all know how quickly this market can change.

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