Samsung and Apple have established a firm duopoly on the US phone market

Samsung and Apple have established a firm duopoly on the US phone market
More than 90% of the phones sold at each of the four major carriers' stores were either made by Apple or Samsung, according to a new store survey done by analysis firm Wave7 Research and reported first by PC Mag. The study confirms earlier reports and shows that despite the buzz around the latest phones by companies such as Google, OnePlus and others, the US market is largely dominated by Apple and Samsung. It's a duopoly that has not changed much in the last few years.

Apple and Samsung phones made up a whopping 95% of all the phones sold at AT&T stores, 94% of the phones sold at Verizon stores, 94% over at Sprint and 91% at T-Mobile stores, according to this report.

The most popular phone sold at carrier stores was the iPhone 11, while the most popular Android phone was the Samsung Galaxy S10.

A very, very distant third was Google's family of Pixel phones that grabbed between 2% and 4% depending on the carrier, while OnePlus got the fourth place with 2.3%, largely thanks to the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition sold at T-Mobile stores.


These numbers once again show just how much of a hold Apple and Samsung have on the US market and how things are just not changing.

It's worth pointing out that carrier stores control the overwhelming majority of US postpaid phone sales, selling between 85% and 90% of the phones, with only between 10% to 15% of postpaid sales happening via other channels like Amazon, Best Buy and the rest.

Postpaid, or contract, subscribers are the most profitable customers for carriers and this is largely the number that matters for revenues. Latest publicly available data from Q3 2018 estimated that there are 267 million postpaid mobile subscribers in the US and only 46 million customers on prepaid. Typically, prepaid plans are cheaper and are preferred by customers from lower income households that are also generally not buying high-end phones. This latest report confirms this: for example, over at MetroPCS, Samsung, LG and Motorola were the top sellers in the first half of December, while Boost Mobile was selling mostly iPhone and Samsung phones, but the LG Stylo 5 was ranked as the fifth most popular phone there.

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46 Comments

1. TheAccountant unregistered

Google should reconsider if they really want to compete in smartphone market

17. highwaysnobbery

Posts: 59; Member since: Feb 19, 2013

I agree completely. I'm just not sure they really want to succeed in this arena.

21. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2514; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I think Google should bring back the Nexus. Create a flagship device at $400-500. Lose money on it to gain consumers. It’s not like they wouldn’t make that money back through more people using Google services anyway.

22. CrapGame

Posts: 42; Member since: Nov 29, 2019

Good idea. The only problem is that Pixel phones don't appeal to most people, me included. I'm heavily vested in the Google ecosystem but their phones are fugly and I detest stock android.

45. D34ever

Posts: 246; Member since: Jul 14, 2018

Google is too busy making junks.

2. darkkjedii

Posts: 31764; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Samsung and Apple are the two I use.

18. Taphius

Posts: 108; Member since: Aug 20, 2018

They're close to being the only phones worth using, Apple is Apple and Samsungs are almost always half off during pre-sale or black friday, no android can compete at those prices (unless you're a die hard but thats a small %). Samsung doesnt do, basically anything the best (minus screen) but they are always in the top 5. Note/S10 would have been perfect with a better FP scanner.

23. CrapGame

Posts: 42; Member since: Nov 29, 2019

Nah. The competition is weak in the US beyond those two brands and Carrier payment plans are compelling. European carriers like EE sell Oppo and Huawei etc and their sales reflect that support. I don't know anyone outside of the US who uses a Motorola or LG but they have a customer base of sorts in the US.

26. galaxian

Posts: 34; Member since: Oct 25, 2017

Motorola is in top 3 by market share in some Latin American countries. They have also some presence in Eastern Europe, though it is much weaker than the one in Latin America. LG is in top 3 in South Korea.

48. cevon3239

Posts: 56; Member since: Jan 01, 2020

What? There are other pretty good phones here. We just dont want them. Many of us can get better devices, because its paid over time.

33. cevon3239

Posts: 56; Member since: Jan 01, 2020

They do have a better fingerprint sensor. The ultrasonic sensor is more secure, which is why it is slower. Less secure options tend to be faster. Biometric based security measures tend to be slower because they are safer. Do you want to be faster or safer?

3. Poptart2828

Posts: 499; Member since: Jan 23, 2018

I am now beginning to understand why outsider phones don't review well at all by most sites based of the American market.

11. CrapGame

Posts: 42; Member since: Nov 29, 2019

Ignorance is bliss. They simply don't know that there are excellent alternatives available and the Carriers are part of the problem.

4. redmd

Posts: 1961; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Advertising works.

5. midan

Posts: 3219; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Kind a same worlwide with few exceptions there and there. Samsung and Apple are biggest because they have strongest brand name which they been building all these years. Both are also very safe choices. You know what you are buying when you buy Apple or Samsung and most people want safe choices which they know going to be worth of their money.

10. Papa_Ji

Posts: 912; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

outside US it's samsung and Huawei (and Bbk, Xiaomi )...Apple is not even in top 5.

12. midan

Posts: 3219; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

24. CrapGame

Posts: 42; Member since: Nov 29, 2019

Why does this chart you keep posting break out the UK, Germany etc but lumps China (the largest market in the world) under "Asia"? It's a useful chart but very, very odd.

34. cevon3239

Posts: 56; Member since: Jan 01, 2020

Samsung has higher marketshare in more countries than Apple. It has always been that way and it won't change unless A0ple starts o compete at the low and mid tier prices ranges. Apple only called sales at 220M, while Samsung capped at 435M. That is a huge difference.

9. inFla

Posts: 216; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

Samsung and Apple deals are the only ones being promoted in carrier television commercials.

13. libra89

Posts: 2335; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

Good eye, I didn't even notice that as I'm just used to this.

14. libra89

Posts: 2335; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

It makes sense. Especially when you have people who believe that there's only 2 types of phones, iPhone and Samsung.

15. Poptart2828

Posts: 499; Member since: Jan 23, 2018

Sad state of affairs for phone enthusiasts in the US. Every major phone maker in the world make compelling phones worth buying. This lemming behavior will not be broken if ever

16. tokuzumi

Posts: 1999; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

I have a S9 right now. I like it, but I think this will be my last Galaxy device. Way too many notifications pop up (system related). It feels more like a beginner's device. Which is fine for users who aren't very tech savvy. Also, after 18 months, my battery life has become atrocious. I can watch the battery percentage drop, even with the phone in standby. It's not worth it to me to try to replace the battery. I'm hoping I can keep this phone on life support long enough to replace it with a Pixel 4a, or maybe a pixel 4 if the deals are good enough.

29. wickedwilly

Posts: 774; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

It seems you are one of the not so savvy users. It is easy to control what notifications you want to see and manage them to your taste. On all Galaxy devices, there are a myriad of customisation and power-user features and one UI is one of the best Android front ends and much better than stock Android. As for you battery drain, having owned many Galaxy phones including the S9, the battery life over time has been very consistent. Getting a Pixel will not be getting you a better "power users" phone or better battery consistency.

19. Vancetastic

Posts: 1873; Member since: May 17, 2017

This is not good for consumers...

20. phoneguynh

Posts: 33; Member since: Oct 31, 2018

Maybe manufacturers should take control of updates instead of leaving them to the carriers. That’s what drove me away from Android.

25. CrapGame

Posts: 42; Member since: Nov 29, 2019

90% of people know nothing about updates. It's about paying in installments versus upfront for unlocked. The carriers will always play it safe and offer familiar profitable brands.

27. galaxian

Posts: 34; Member since: Oct 25, 2017

So the big democratic US is a place that resembles communism. In Eastern Europe there are numerous brands competing. Same in Asia. In Western Europe there are much less and in US it is mainly 2 brands. Poor Americans. Enjoy your communism ... sorry, your capitalism with just 2 brands out there.

28. Locked-n-Loaded

Posts: 114; Member since: Sep 13, 2019

PRECISELY why USA phone choices BLOW! Oppo Huawei Zte Xiaomi Asus Meizu Honor Realme Redmi these companies rountinely make Samsung & Apple look lazy, slow to devlope, boring & same same w/ minor interations each release. We generally - especially w/ big carries like VZW - get no choices from these faster evolving brands.

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