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Motorola, Blu, and Apple are winning in the booming US unlocked smartphone market

Posted: , by Mihai A.

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Motorola, Blu, and Apple are winning in the booming US unlocked smartphone market
According to a new report from market research firm Strategy Analytics, 2015 was a very good year for unlocked smartphone sales in the US. SA estimates that 14.6 million unlocked smartphones were shipped last year, up 140% from 6.1 million units in 2014.

Data for 2015 shows that unlocked smartphones took a 9% share of total smartphone shipments in the US, compared to just 4% back in 2014. Overall, 158.7 million smartphones are estimated to have been shipped in the US last year, a 7% year-on-year improvement.

On a manufacturer level, it looks like 2015 was a very good year for Motorola. The Lenovo-owned manufacturer shipped 1.4 million unlocked smartphones in the US, up from just 0.1 million unlocked units in the precedent year. 

In the past year, Motorola captured 9% of the unlocked smartphone market as handsets such as the Moto X Pure, the 3rd-gen Moto G, and the 2nd-gen Moto G managed to strike a cord with US smartphone customers.

Florida-based manufacturer Blu has solidified is position at the top of the raw sales charts. This new report claims that the manufacturer shipped 5.2 million unlocked smartphones last year, a 160% annual growth.

Apple is estimated to have shipped 1.8 million unlocked iPhones in the US in 2015, up from 0.7 million units the year before. According to Strategy Analytics, Apple's growth in the unlocked smartphone segment was largely driven by the iPhone Upgrade Program that the company launched in Q3.

source - Strategy Analytics

source - Strategy Analytics



Looking into the future, the research firm believes that smartphone shipments will grow to 23 million units shipped in 2016, for a 14% slice of the total US smartphone market. Linda Sui, Director at Strategy Analytics, comments:

The unlocked smartphone market is the faster-growing segment in the US, which is the most valuable smartphone market worldwide. No smartphone makers can afford to ignore the booming unlocked smartphone market in the US.

73 Comments
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posted on 14 Mar 2016, 12:43 2

1. AllFanboysMatter (Posts: 143; Member since: 14 Feb 2016)


I just hope the iPhone 7 can deliver.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 13:00 6

3. Adreno (banned) (Posts: 755; Member since: 12 Mar 2016)


This doesn't come as a suprise. Given that most people (myself included) are fed-up with carrieer bloatware retarding updates.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 13:43 3

7. Johnnokia (Posts: 1108; Member since: 27 May 2012)


Fortunately the iPhone doesn't have the carriers' ugly bloatware.
Samsung and LG should sell unlocked phones in the US as well.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 14:42 3

9. Bernoulli (Posts: 4095; Member since: 01 Sep 2012)


Ever heard of 'amazon ' or expansys-us? It's a real thing you know. That's where I'd buy all my lumia phones that would be otherwise at$t branded.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 15:49 2

12. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 10756; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


They do. All you have to do is buy the International version of the phone directly from Samsung.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 16:45 1

14. alila2 (Posts: 157; Member since: 01 Nov 2011)


true but international versions don't always support all US lte band

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 18:36

17. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


They're still ignorant regarding this. GSM isn't used by Verizon and Sprint.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 18:41

20. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Which doesn't work on all us bands.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 19:22

22. lyndon420 (Posts: 4565; Member since: 11 Jul 2012)


My Nexus 6 through Rogers had just one app of theirs pre-installed on my Nexus 6 which I use often enough to warrant it's continuing existence. But I can also uninstall it if I wanted to. Guess this doesn't really help your case I suppose...sorry dude...hope I didn't burst a bubble or anything.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 12:52 6

2. Kumar123 (Posts: 914; Member since: 15 Jan 2015)


Good for Motorola. I hope this year they will use a OIS and bigger battery for their flagship phone. 3000mAh is too small for a QHD 5.7 inch display. Its also frustrating to see their mid class device has better battery life than flagship device. PUT BIGGER BATTERY in your flagship phone MOTO.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 13:29 1

4. tonyv13 (Posts: 57; Member since: 07 Jun 2015)


Well to be honest last phone I paid 700$ for was the note 4 since then not anymore max I would pay now is 400$

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 13:32 1

5. jsjammu (Posts: 84; Member since: 13 Nov 2014)


Good for Blu.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 17:00

16. razmahtaz001 (Posts: 149; Member since: 11 May 2013)


yes, good for blue, but i believe alot of their smartphones mostly comes with only 1gb ram and 8gb storage...im waiting for blu to come out with an updated studio 7 lte or life view tab 8.0 to come with 16 or 32 storage and 2gb or more and better resulotion....and upgrade to LTE for the life view tab 8.0...im willing to pay up to an extra 100$ for these upgrade ;o)

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 20:09 2

23. murali_v_2000 (Posts: 33; Member since: 31 Jan 2012)


Not true. Check out Blu Pure XL. Top of the line specs for $350. Only gripe is lack of custom rom so far.

posted on 15 Mar 2016, 14:26

29. FrankUnderwood2 (Posts: 237; Member since: 01 Oct 2015)


Also, do check Blu Vivo 5. A very impressive device for its price.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 13:38 2

6. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


I callcalled it. I now have further proof that universally unlocked phones is something people do care about. Being GSM unlocked isn't enough. OEMs need to look here for proof before charging $700 for a locked phone.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 16:48

15. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


BLU phones are GSM unlocked ONLY, not universally unlocked, and they have the highest market share of the "unlocked smartphone US market". I guess being GSM unlocked is enough for the majority of US buyers in the unlocked market.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 18:38

18. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


While that may be true to some extent, you forget about Motorola and Apple picking up steam here so it is gaining some popularity.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 22:01

24. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


I didn't forget about that. I was just pointing out a fact, is all. The truth is that the average consumer doesn't really care about "universally unlocked". Most probably don't even know what that is. And you forget, BLU picked up steam as well. They gained market share from 2014 to 2015.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 23:45

25. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


I didn't forget. My point wasn't about the BLU phones even though you are correct in that they are picking up steam. My point was that universally unlocked phones are becoming popular. There's a market out there even if the general public isn't aware of it just yet. I think it's downplaying it some if you say it that way though.

posted on 15 Mar 2016, 04:45

26. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


So you're going to ignore the FACT that despite how popular universally unlocked phones may or may not be, they are no where near as popular as GSM unlocked phones, and probably never will be? My points still stand: GSM unlocked phones are far more popular than universally unlocked phones, and they are becoming increasingly so. The average consumer just doesn't care, isn't aware of it, and for the most part, won't ever be aware of it.

Downplaying? The stats say otherwise.

posted on 16 Mar 2016, 21:09

37. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Probably never will be is just speculation and the only reason you're even saying that in the first place is because of the blackberry Priv otherwise you would be singing praise for universally unlocked phones.

The fact that Moto phones are in the graph here in this article along with the iPhone 6S should tell you something about universally unlocked phones gaining momentum.

posted on 16 Mar 2016, 21:50

39. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


So now you're going to assume that you know me? I buy MOST of my handsets unlocked, INCLUDING my BlackBerry devices. I give credit where credit is due, not in some slick attempt to take potshots. The only reason why you even commented on this article in the first place was to attempt to justify your whining in BlackBerry articles about the PRIV in the first place.

The fact that BLU phones are GSM unlocked only and are in this article, AND are increasing their dominant share of the unlocked smartphone market should tell you that e majority of consumers that buy their handsets unlocked don't care all that about universally unlocked phones.

posted on 17 Mar 2016, 01:14

42. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


I never assumed to know you. I just made an assumption based on your own comments. I give credit where credit is due as well, so what? That's just what you want to think because nowhere in my original comment did I mention the Priv. The Priv isn't the only $700 Android smartphone you know.

You're still remaining ignorant to one of the main reasons why the BLU phones are so popular - PRICE. That's the main reason why the Moto G was such a moneymaker for Motorola because of the specs it offered at such an affordable price. Same thing for the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3. My point is that the only reason why BLU has such a large market share is because of the price.

posted on 17 Mar 2016, 05:14

45. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


So you still decided to make an @$$ of yourself by assuming. Sounds legit. And you only give credit to what you like or claim to use, not where it's due. And we both know you're talking about the PRIV. Cut the BS already.

You're still being ignorant if you think I'm ignorant of BLU's pricing being the driving factor to their popularity. It STILL doesn't change the fact that BLU has the highest market share in the unlocked smartphone segment. It also doesn't change the fact that the majority of the world uses GSM unlocked smartphones as opposed to universally unlocked ones, or the fact that the majority of buyers in the unlocked smartphone segment don't care or don't know about universally unlocked phones.

posted on 17 Mar 2016, 13:51

48. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


No, that's your job. There's no "claiming" involved but I don't care about having your seal of approval. It won't change a thing nor will it make me miss any sleep at night. I understand that this is all you have. The only bs that's prevalent is what's spewing from your mouth. I actually never named any device at all.

Well it is. Anyone with half a brain can see that BLU phones having that much market share is because their phones are so cheap. It's stupid to think otherwise. I don't care what the majority of the world uses. It's irrelevant to me since I don't travel and I don't live outside the US. I'm not trying to be one sided like you, but the discussion here is about phones in the US, a very significant market. So you can downplay universally unlocked phones all you want, it still won't change anything. In the US, it's strictly GSM and CDMA. I wished Verizon and Sprint were GSM but it is what it is and that's why a universally unlocked phone is such a huge advantage. Like I said before, the only reason you think otherwise is because you precious Priv isn't universally unlocked.

posted on 17 Mar 2016, 15:55

51. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


Clearly making an @$$ of yourself is your job, and a full time one at that with overtime pay for you. And we both know that if it wasn't for this, you'd be lonely, living in your parents basement scratching your unwashed anus in the same tighty whities you had on for an entire week so far. You didn't need to name a device to know what you were talking about. It's too easy to figure out a simpleton like you.

Didn't I just say that BLU phones have such a large share of the unlocked smartphone market because of how inexpensive they are? Are you that much of an illiterate idiot that you can't read? And if you weren't trying to be so "one sided", then you WOULD take into consideration what the majority of the world uses, as opposed to your myopic view of things. Provide the link where I "downplayed" universally unlocked smartphones. I'll wait....

Just because I'm pointing out FACTS backed by STATS does not mean I'm "downplaying" anything. Universally unlocked definitely has its advantages, but YOU keep downplaying the FACT that most consumers either don't care about that, or are unaware. Even readers HERE on PA are unaware, and it's assumed that those that come here are "tech-inclined". One needs only to read comment #31 to see this fact. And I know that it's "strictly GSM and CDMA" in the U.S. I live in the U.S. And you wouldn't care about any of this at all if your precious iPhone wasn't universally unlocked.

Again, I'm going by FACTS backed by STATS. YOU are not.

posted on 18 Mar 2016, 18:25

54. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


There goes your obsession with tighty whities. Not my fault you were wrong. You wanted me to name the Priv but as you can see, I didn't name any device in particular. Get over it.

Again, not my fault if you're too incompetent to understand that I was referring to the US market. I know good and well there's a broader market outside the US, but that's not the point here. If anything, you're the one with the myopic view on things considering how you continue to be ignorant when it comes to universally unlocked phones.

That's where you're wrong. I've been praising the move for universally unlocked phones every since the Moto X Pure Edition was announced as being fully unlocked. It wouldn't matter if the iPhone wasn't universally unlocked, my point right now would still be the same. Get over it. I didn't say you didn't live in the US, I just wanted to point out to your ignorant mind that I was referring to the US market since that's where I'm living in.

Do I need to paint a picture or get out the coloring books for you to finally understand it?

posted on 18 Mar 2016, 21:14

57. meanestgenius (Posts: 13104; Member since: 28 May 2014)


If you'd clean those stained tighty whities of yours, I wouldn't smell them from all the way over here and thus have to mention it. Weren't you ever taught to change your those things?

It's not MY fault that you just can't understand the point here. Stupid is as stupid does, and you are definitely stupid. Just because YOU don't want to talk about the broader market doesn't mean that I have to follow suit. You're not controlling the conversation here, and you're CLEARLY the one with the myopic view since you refuse to acknowledge the broader, global market and continue to be ignorant of it.

Cut the BS. Everyone here knows that the only reason your cheerleading for universally unlocked phones is because of your idol worship of the iPhone. Get over yourself and your BS and quit it with the lies. And it makes YOU ignorant for not recognizing anything outside of the U.S. I guess your simple mind can't comprehend something so broad.

Coloring books must be the only thing your feeble mind can comprehend, because you CLEARLY can't understand the FACTS backed by STATS.

posted on 20 Mar 2016, 09:31

60. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 14309; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


The only thing you're smelling is the bulls*** that's overflowing from your mouth. Maybe you should clean that up because it can't be good for your teeth.

It's not my fault because you're an idiot when it comes to getting the point. Just because you want to steer the conversation in a different way because you were wrong doesn't mean I'm the one who's at fault. Get over it.

Again, I'm not living abroad you idiot. If you seriously think the US market isn't significant enough then you're even dumber than I thought. And for the record, I've been talking about universally unlocked phones before the iPhone started doing it. So you cut the bs and get the f- over it.

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