Consumer Electronics

How Much Did Apple Sales Hurt Samsung?

apple iphone 6 intro
Source: Apple Inc.
In a note published on Tuesday, research firm Canalys said that for the first time ever Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) became the leading smartphone seller in China in the fourth quarter of 2014. Apple’s announced sales total of 74.5 million iPhones in the quarter put an exclamation mark at the end of that statement.

Without giving specific numbers, Canalys said the rank order of the top four smartphone vendors in China is now Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei. At the end of the third quarter, the research firm said that Xiaomi was China’s top vendor, followed by Samsung and Apple.

Globally, Samsung held 25% of the smartphone market in the third quarter of 2014, compared with 13% for Apple and 6% for Xiaomi. Lenovo and Huawei each nabbed 5% of the global market.

Given that China accounted for 34% of third-quarter 2014 global shipments, Samsung’s fourth-quarter share of both the Chinese and global markets almost certainly will have fallen.

Apple did not offer a detailed geographic breakdown for its quarterly unit sales, but the company did report China revenues rose to $16.14 billion, up 157% sequentially and 70% year-over-year. U.S. revenues rose to $30.57 billion and European revenues rose to $17.21 billion. In terms of unit sales, the United States is still Apple’s largest market.

What is happening to Samsung is that it is fighting for share at the low-end of the market with vendors like Xiaomi and competing with Apple at the high-end. When Apple puts up huge numbers like it did on Tuesday, the gains have to come from somewhere, and with Xiaomi also gaining share, that somewhere is Samsung.

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Specifically, the iPhone 6 Plus with its huge screen is more popular in China — and Asia generally — than the 6 Plus is in the rest of the world. Because the 6 Plus has a higher average selling price than the iPhone 6, that adds to Apple’s top line.

Because Samsung offers a variety of phones and devices in a wide range of prices, the company has been unable to convince Chinese buyers that its high-end phones are the equal of Apple’s. Unless Samsung can turn that perception around, it will continue to leak share not only to Apple, but also to Xiaomi, which has released its own high-end offerings. Squeezed at both ends, Samsung has a difficult road ahead.