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For the first time ever, Apple beat out Samsung to ship the most smartphones in a year according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. Although IDC cautions that its data is preliminary and subject to change, a second research agency, Canalys, also has Apple taking its top spot for all of 2023. IDC has Apple’s total mobile shipments at 234.6 million, versus 226.6 million for Samsung. Xiaomi, Oppo, and Transsion round out the top five with 145.9, 103.1 and 94.9 million smartphones shipped, respectively. 

IDC notes that the last time Samsung wasn’t on top of the annual board was 13 years ago in 2010. Back then Apple didn’t even feature in the top five. Instead it was Nokia in first place, Samsung in second, LG Electronics in third, ZTE in fourth, and Research in Motion (manufacturers of BlackBerry devices) in fifth. If you needed any evidence that 13 years is a long time in the smartphone industry, then this list of companies would be it.

IDC’s 2023 top five, versus its top five from 2010 the last time Samsung wasn’t number one.

“Not only is Apple the only player in the Top 3 to show positive growth annually, but also bags the number 1 spot annually for the first time ever,” said IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team research director Nabila Popal. “Apple’s ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans.”

Although IDC notes that Apple played a key part in knocking Samsung off the top spot, the company also saw intense competition from other Android manufacturers like Huawei, OnePlus, Honor, and Google. It’s not just Samsung that is being challenged by these companies, Canalys notes that Huawei’s “improving strength” could also be a problem for Apple’s growth in the Chinese market. Last year reports emerged that Huawei had managed to overcome US sanctions and build an advanced 7nm processor from Chinese chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) into its Mate 60 Pro smartphone capable of 5G speeds.

While overall smartphone shipments declined 3.2 percent in 2023 versus 2022, there are signs that the market might be recovering from its recent slump. IDC reports that shipments grew 8.5 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, while Canalys has it growing 8 percent after seven straight quarters of declines.

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