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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: 162; 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: 1127; 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: 4176; 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: 11725; 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: 15419; 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: 15419; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Which doesn't work on all us bands.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 19:22

22. lyndon420 (Posts: 4731; 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 (unregistered)


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: 59; 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: 91; Member since: 13 Nov 2014)


Good for Blu.

posted on 14 Mar 2016, 17:00

16. razmahtaz001 (Posts: 184; 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: 239; 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: 15419; 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: 14192; 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: 15419; 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: 14192; 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: 15419; 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: 14192; 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 15 Mar 2016, 15:53

31. Jason78 (Posts: 271; Member since: 10 Apr 2013)


What do you mean by "GSM unlocked" vs "Universally unlocked"? I'm not aware of any BLU phones that are not GSM.

posted on 15 Mar 2016, 16:34

32. meanestgenius (Posts: 14192; Member since: 28 May 2014)


I was making a point. Mxy is saying that "universally unlocked" (meaning handsets that can be used with any carrier, including CDMA carriers), are something that people care about and that being only "GSM unlocked" isn't enough. I'm pointing out that BLU has the most market share in the U.S. amongst unlocked handsets, and they're only GSM unlocked handsets. My point is being that their market share is so high amongst unlocked handsets, that most buyers of unlocked phones either aren't aware of universally unlocked handsets, or just don't care about universally unlocked handsets vs GSM unlocked handsets.

posted on 16 Mar 2016, 21:50

39. meanestgenius (Posts: 14192; 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 16 Mar 2016, 21:02

35. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 15419; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


GSM unlocked = compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T and any of the prepaid services that use their networks

Universally unlocked = the above plus CDMA networks like Sprint and Verizon.

Meanest is ignorant to the importance of being universally unlocked because then customers from CDMA networks can also benefit from unlocked phones like the Moto X, the Nexus phones, and the iPhone 6S series.

posted on 16 Mar 2016, 21:07

36. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 15419; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


It isn't. Just look at how the Moto X and the Nexus 6P are selling on places like eBay. I don't even have to say the iPhone 6S because they were still going pretty high on the preowned markets.

It's important because users from Verizon and Sprint can benefit. You no longer have to worry about selling a phone and spending money to get a new one when moving from carriers unless you just want to get a new phone.

Of course the Blu phones are going to have high market share. They're cheaper than the other two. That's just obvious. But to say people don't ultimately care is pretty ignorant otherwise Google wouldn't have trouble with keeping Nexus phones in stock during release day. Well besides their poor inventory management.

posted on 16 Mar 2016, 21:09

37. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 15419; 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, 21:58

40. meanestgenius (Posts: 14192; Member since: 28 May 2014)


None of that disproves what I've said or what the FACTUAL stats say. You can yell "universally unlocked phones are gaining momentum" until you pass out, and it still won't change the fact that not only are GSM unlocked smartphones the leader in the unlocked smartphone market, they are gaining momentum as well.

Yes, BLU phones are less expensive, but Moto phones aren't that far off from the top-tier priced BLU phones, and facts are facts. No amount of cheerleading you do for universally unlocked phones will change that.

posted on 16 Mar 2016, 22:02

41. meanestgenius (Posts: 14192; Member since: 28 May 2014)


I'm not "ignorant" of anything, and I challenge you to link any part of this article that shows that I'm being "ignorant" of anything. You're being an idiot for assuming so, but that's usually par the course for you. The only reason why you're playing front row cheerleader for universally unlocked smartphones in the first place is because of iPhone, otherwise you wouldn't even bother to comment here.

posted on 17 Mar 2016, 01:14

42. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 15419; 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.

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