I'm waiting for the final numbers to come out, so we can do the full year 2017 smartphone numbers and the numbers for Q4. Before we have our final numbers, a lot of individual news stories are expected.
First, expect the story that 'Apple sells more than Samsung' smartphones. This is the Q4 measurement (calendar Quarter, so October-to-December, not fiscal quarter) and it looks like Apple will have outsold Sammy in Q4. That does NOT mean that Apple is in any way ahead in the race. On the contrary, Apple is FALLING FURTHER BEHIND Samsung. How can that be? It is the LAUNCH CYCLE for Apple's new model. Every Christmas Apple has its best quarter, then does ever worse the next three quarters. So the real measure is the FULL YEAR sales. For full year sales, Samsung held even in market share at 21%, while Apple is far behind, at 14% and Apple yes, fell one point in market share from 15% in 2016. So the gap between Samsung and Apple is INCREASING, Apple is FALLING FURTHER behind. But that is reality. Expect many silly business & tech writers, in the USA in particular, to fall for the story, that Apple is ahead of Samsung. Any honest reporting will tell readers that for full year sales, Samsung is safely ahead of Apple. Any 'fake news' reporting will only talk about Q4 numbers and leave the reader with the impression that Samsung has fallen.
Secondly, learn about the smartphone manufacturer company from China called BBK. We know that company for its smartphone brands Vivo, Oppo & OnePlus. I have counted those brands separately into our Top 10 in the past, but that is not fair, as we count Motorola brand sales into Lenovo sales, etc, so as a manufacturer, yes, BBK has to be counted where its individual brands are added together. A year ago, using that method, BBK was the world's third largest smartphone maker in year 2016, behind Apple and ahead of Huawei. Now, for 2017, BBK has passed Apple. There will be a separate story, that Apple has FALLEN TO THIRD.
So simultaneously we will hear stories that Apple is larger than Samsung, and that Apple has fallen from second rank to third rank in the smartphone races. Haha. And both are technically true statements.
But yes, expect to learn a lot more about BBK. And yes, it is the world's second-largest smartphone manufacturing conglomerate, behind only Samsung and ahead of Apple, Huawei, LG, Xiaomi and the others that we so much love to follow on this blog. And if you want to know more about who is this BBK and how did they 'suddenly' appear onto the scene, here is a great synopsis of the company, its founder and the history from DVD players and videogaming consoles to smartphones today, via Android Authority. Very good (and short) read.
Now on the individual brand races, where is the race? Samsung is flat for the year, keeping its 21% from the year before. Far above Apple who falls from 15% to 14% this past year. And who is rushing up to fight against Apple brand? It is Huawei, who again added a point of market share, and now globally sells 10% of all smartphones (vs 9% a year ago). Apple has lost one point every year last 3 years, while Huawei has gained a point each of the last 3 years. This trends suggests that next year (2019) we will see the iPhone at 12% and Huawei at 12% and the two big global smartphone makers will be literally neck-to-neck. By year 2020 Huawei will have passed Apple.
(and behind those two brands, we find the 3 BBK brands, Vivo, Oppo and OnePlus, of course, who combined are larger than either Apple or Huawei. And this year, BBK will start to approach Samsung for the title of top dog...)
Now a mathematical curiosity. It looks like we have a perfect symmetry in the top 3 (brand) race in smarthphones globally (annual numbers, of course). Samsung is 45% larger than number 2, Apple. And Apple is 45% larger than number 3 (Huawei). Haha .Nice symmetry there. But that won't last long. Samsung is holding steady at 21% market share. Apple is bleeding market share one point per year, and Huawei is catching up to Apple one point per year in market share. So in one year it will be more like Samsung ahead of Apple by 56% and Apple ahead of Huawei only by 21%.
BTW of the top 3 brands, we know Samsung's rough semi-official full year number, it is 320 million total smartphones sold (plus another 40 million dumbphones). And for Huawei, we know their official full year 2017 number at 153 million. Apple will end up somewhere near 220 million, maybe a bit under. BBK will be well above 250 million across their three brands.
Then in milestones to come. MASSIVE number is upon us, this Spring. I have Samsung cumulative shipments of smartphones lifetime at 1.9 Billion. We're passing 2.0 Billion cumulative Samsung brand smartphones shipped, sometime this Spring, probably this first quarter. I hope Samsung celebrates that 2 Billionth smartphone in some way. (for comparison, Apple at 1.3 Billion cumulative iPhones since 2007, Nokia next at 600 million smartphones lifetime, and Huawei is next, past 500 million already)
Meanwhile in the kiddie table. Where is Nokia's comeback? I am hoping some analysts will give some numbers on Nokia. For the full year they are well below half a percent as they only started to sell their smartphones to a broad market in the summer. But for Q4, they may well be above 1% market share already. I'd love to see some analyst quote a Nokia HMD smartphone unit count number so we'll have some visibility to that scale. I was expecting Nokia HMD to sell about 5.4 million. Hopefully we'll see some numbers too about that. Ok, with all that, lets await the various numbers.