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Smartphone sales 2017: Apple loosing Top 2 rank to chinese maker

Apple iPhone 7
The iPhone marketshare dropped from 20 % in 2012 to 14 % in 2017.
© Apple

Currently Apple is the richest company in the world. But the iPhone is loosing marketshare year over year, in 2017 the chinese manufacturer BBK took over the top2 rank relegating Apple to the 3rd spot. Meanwhile Googles OS Android achieved a new all time high marketshare of more than 85 percent.

Table 1 shows the top 10 smartphone manufactures (not smartphone brands) in 2017. The chinese cooperation BBK is to smartphones what VW is to cars. VW sells the VW brand itself as well as AUDI, Porsche and Seat. Different to VW BBK doesn't use the BBK brand to sell phones. Rather it sells Vivo and Oppo that are major brands througout Asia and are starting to appear on other continents as well. In addition BBK sells OnePlus, the „luxury brand“ of the Chinese corporation. The same applies to TCL, which sells the smartphone brands Alcatel and Blackberry and to Lenovo, which besides its own brand sells also the Motorola brand.

The big change in 2017 applies to Apple which drops from number 2 (a position it has held since 2012 after Nokia fell and Samsung jumped past Apple) to number 3. Apple’s marketshare was 20 % in 2012, falling to 16 % in 2014, to 15 % in 2016 and now to 14 % (exactly 14,3 %) in 2017. The new number 2 ranked BBK entered the top 10 list only 3 years ago.

Neverthless Apple generates by far the highest profits within the smartphone industry (picture). In fact, Apple is not far from a record level that seemed unimaginable a few years ago: a market value of a trillion dollars. Apple would thus be worth three times as much as the oil company Exxon Mobil, which just a few years ago - as is now the case with Apple - was the top value of the American stock exchanges in terms of market capitalization. With a trillion dollars, Apple would also be worth eight times as much as the industrial group and admittedly battered Siemens competitor General Electric, which, like Exxon and Apple, is among the 30 standard stocks of the Dow Jones index.
After Apple's share price has risen by more than 13 percent since the beginning of May, the market value of 920 billion dollars is now 80 billion dollars short of the trillion threshold. Transferred to the dimensions of Apple this is not even a stone's throw. Apple would break the record with a further gain of only nine percent.
 

Distribution of profits generated by smartphone sales in Q4 2017.
Distribution of profits generated by smartphone sales in Q4 2017.
© Counterpoint

The second very successful chinese smartphone maufacturer is Huawei. The marktshare grew from 8 to 9 to 10 % within the past 3 years. The trend says Apple will lose its third position by 2020 the latest and fall to fourth rank among smartphone manufacturing companies globally. While Apple had flat sales in 2017, all other 4 manufacturers out of the Top 5 grew their sales - Samsung by 3%, BBK by 29%, Huawei by 10% and Xiaomi by 70%.

Table 2 shows the top 10 smartphone brands. The chinese brand Xiaomi is the clear winner in 2017, growing its marketshare from 3.7 to 6.1 %.

Last but not least: What about the operating systems? Apple sold 14.3% of all the smartphones in 2017. That is the OS market share for iOS. Android is nearly the rest. There is less than 0.5% of 'other' OS platforms which nearly all have died (e.g. Windows phone, Blackberry OS). So Android has about 85.4%. This is just the smartphone sales, you have to take in consideration that there also are 'non smartphone' devices to get the full reach of a platform. For Android there are tablets, smart watches, TV sets etc. For iOS it is only the iPad and Apple Watch.

The smartphone installed base is about 3.3 billion devices globally. Four out of five smartphones globally now run on Android, one in five runs on iOS. As to the industry, growth rate is down now. The global market for smartphones grew only by 1.8% in 2017. The earlier part of the year showed better growth but the final quarter had a significant slowing down.

In 2018 it seems to be clear that ZTE will fall out of the top 10 list. After the US chip embargo applying e.g. to Qualcomm and its Snapdragon SoCs, the manufacturing plants used by ZTE are currently out of order. Even after receiving the allowness to buy SoCs made by taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek there will be no change soon: It takes month to setup a new PCB and software design for MediaTek SoCs like Helio X30.


  1. Smartphone sales 2017: Apple loosing Top 2 rank to chinese maker
  2. Top 10 smartphone manufactures in 2017
  3. Top 10 smartphone brands in 2017
  4. Installed smartphone operating systems in 2017

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