The premium smartphone market is 'collapsing', but don't blame it on Samsung or Huawei

The premium smartphone market is 'collapsing', but don't blame it on Samsung or Huawei
It's no longer a big secret that smartphones in general are not selling as well as they used to, largely because companies have slowed the pace of innovation, failing to give customers compelling reasons to upgrade their devices every one or two years. But the situation is particularly dire in the premium market segment, which has apparently "collapsed" during the first quarter of 2019.

Global shipments of phones priced at $400 and up have taken an 8 percent hit compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Counterpoint Research report, which is obviously pretty bad. Of course, things are bad for the entire mobile industry, but the IDC and Strategy Analytics estimated the smartphone market as a whole only declined by 6.6 and 4 percent respectively in Q1 2019 versus the first quarter of 2018. 

Bottom line, these so-called "premium" handsets are doing much worse than low to mid-end products, and Apple is primarily to blame for that.

The same top three players, but the gaps are narrowing


Together, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei accounted for a staggering 88 percent of the world's premium smartphone shipments between January and March. But while the market leader is in no danger of being surpassed anytime soon, iPhone sales tumbled by a worrisome 20 percent, allowing Samsung to capture a quarter of the pie, ahead of Huawei's own juicy 16 percent slice.


Keep in mind Samsung and Huawei only claimed 22 and 10 percent shares respectively in 2018, according to the same research firm, while Apple's numbers have been steadily declining in the last couple of years. The Cupertino-based tech giant had 58 percent of the market in 2017, shrinking to 51 percent last year, and "only" 47 percent during Q1 2019.

Longer iPhone replacement cycles are once again highlighted as the company's main problem, but at the same time, Counterpoint's analysts are also pointing out high-end Samsung devices simply offer better value at similar prices. Meanwhile, the popularity of the Galaxy S10 lineup is believed to be owed to its diversity and attractive design. Finally, Huawei scored big in terms of camera performance, AI technology, and build quality, but the embattled Chinese corporation is unlikely to keep up its recent growth rate.

OnePlus is the standout performer of the "others" category


Incredibly popular in India for quite some time now, premium OnePlus phones available at reasonable prices have quickly caught on in the US as well, propelling the brand to fourth place in the North American chart, narrowly behind Google but ahead of both Motorola and LG. Worldwide, OnePlus scored a 2 percent share of premium shipments, which may not sound like a lot, but it is enough to keep the company in the top five, virtually tied with Google.


This is a particularly impressive achievement when you consider the OnePlus 6T was essentially the brand's only phone up for grabs around the world in Q1, setting the stage for even better results from the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro over the next few quarters. It's interesting to note that OnePlus was ranked fourth in Q1 2019 not just in North America, but also across the Middle East and Africa (MEA), Western Europe (WE), and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) regions. 

In addition to winning North America's bronze medal, Google only made the top five in Western Europe, whereas Motorola put on its best performance in Latin America. Believe it or not, Sony also shined in Latin America and Asia-Pacific (excluding China), but that's far from enough to keep a dying manufacturer afloat.

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45 Comments

1. legar123

Posts: 72; Member since: Mar 26, 2019

Samsung will always be a winner with its ever increasing price tag!

5. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

But why do their mobile division profit still struggles?

17. TBomb

Posts: 1714; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

because no consumer actually cares about a companies profit.

19. sgodsell

Posts: 7621; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Consumers care way more about the money in their pockets. Besides since the high end smartphone market has almost priced themselves out of every other market, and is seeing declines. That really doesn't matter for Android OEMs, especially when they have mid range and even inexpensive smartphone markets as well. Android OEMs are constantly making new and upgrading their mid range and inexpensive smartphones as well. This is an area that Apple has never touched. With Android OEMs making new smartphones all the time, these devices don't offer the top hardware, but features and options from flagships constantly make it down to the mid and inexpensive smartphones. The smart people actually know this to be true. They also get the benefits of saving tons of money and if they want buy another inexpensive device next year with the benefits of knowing that next year's inexpensive smartphones will come with more and more improvements at the same inexpensive prices.

20. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Actually they will save by buying an iphone which will be buttery smooth and updates guaranteed for 5 years or more while Most android devices tend to lag after a year of use and so people buy every year as replacements.

21. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

@iloveapps your routine is getting boring. Don't you have anything else to contribute?

25. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

You dare to tell me that where there are 100 times android trolls. cmdacos Tipus blingblingthing back_from_beyond LawnBoy TedKord Maherk PSAfromThisGuy sissy246 MINDoSOUL Oldschool50 GalaxyLeads_iCrapFollows Scarface21173 Papa_ji Alcyone Sgodsell Dollallama Knownhost Onelove123 Ichimoko

30. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

Did you copy and paste that from last time :D

43. iloveapps

Posts: 909; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Isn’t obvious.

37. Vancetastic

Posts: 1888; Member since: May 17, 2017

That’s a lot of hurt feelings on your part. You sound bitter.

28. sgodsell

Posts: 7621; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Your statement is so false. Especially when time is on the side of those inexpensive smartphones. Try to think iloveapps, I know it's hard for your closed off mind. You based everything on guaranteed updates for 5 years, or more for the iPhones, when in reality most people buy new after a few years. Plus every year like I said earlier, those new features move down and into the inexpensive smartphones. So even two years from now, those $100 - $150 smartphones will have newer and upgraded features and options. As a matter of fact Apples iPhone 8 has a smaller and lower resolution display compared to this new Moto E5 and E6. If you spend around $200 then you can get a larger and even higher resolution display compared to the iPhone 8 plus or iPhone XR. Even the cameras are getting upgrades as well each and every year. So let's pretend that you are right that these inexpensive smartphones lag after a year of use, and so people buy every year. Let's now do some math. What's 3 times $100, that equals $300. What's 3 times $150, that is $450. Now what's 3 times $200, that is $600. So even if you do buy every year. Then you are still saving lots of money, plus you are getting the bonus of new hardware updates, including batteries, displays, cameras, and even AI. So that saving up to have a butter smooth iPhone is most definitely flawed when it comes to inexpensive smartphones. Why do you think Android smartphones have the vast majority of the world. South America, Africa, middle East, India, Asia, are mostly Android. Europe is still mostly Android. Apple tried to release a cheaper iPhone SE, but that drove down Apples bottom line. Apple continues to push itself as a premium brand with premium prices. However Apple is running into problems with that, even in it's home turf. Apple dropped the iPhone X altogether when they released the iPhone XS and XS Max, yet they had to bring it back again because Apples sales tanked. Just like Apples XS and XS Max tanked as well. Apple is desperate to even try and push their iPhone XR as budge device, and also say it's great value for the price. Only an iDiot would let a company like Apple tell them what is budget, or great value. If it really was great value then, Apple would have to make sales pitches like that. It would sell itself. But Apples iPhone sales continue to drop. I guess the real budget devices like these Moto E's still sell every year, or else they wouldn't be on their 6th gen. Just like the Moto G's still sell every year, and they are on their 7th gen.

33. mackan84

Posts: 690; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

You forget one important aspect as a consumer. The aftermarket where Apple dominates and lives long after retail sale.

35. lyndon420

Posts: 6918; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

They have (or had) the iPhone SE (Steve Edition) due to the small screen, but wasn't there an iPhone CE (Cheap Edition) a while back?

38. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

You wrote an essay to convince people that they should stop buying iPhones coz they are expensive?? Why do people still buy them? Do you think people who are making that much money are crazy in real life?? Stop kissing google's feet and focus on your studies

49. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

The only IOS user on this site who's impartial and pragmatic is Vancetastic. Expecting a proper debate with the likes of Leo, iloveapps, Midan et al is a waste of time

52. Vancetastic

Posts: 1888; Member since: May 17, 2017

Well, thank you!

34. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

It's coz govts are trying to take from rich and give it to poor for free instead of policies which benefits everyone,, rich don't need to be poor to make a poor rich, good model should be like rich gets richer and poor also get richer,, everyone can rise simultaneously, so stop hate for the rich

27. ph00ny

Posts: 2079; Member since: May 26, 2011

I would assume their R&D budget probably has something to do with their lower profit margin

42. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 593; Member since: May 26, 2011

Samsung isn't trying to squeeze every possible penny out of their customers like Apple, it should be obvious. For years Apple consumers have been paying more for less. Some Apple customers have realized this and don't upgrade as often, hence the reason for the decline in market share sales. Apple doesn't care about you as a customer because they'll raise their prices to offset lower sales in order to keep their profits up.

55. mackan84

Posts: 690; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Or it could just mean that peoples 2-3 year old phone does what the new ones do. You know have a multi touch display, cameras that takes ok pictures, and run the latest update and pretty much any app. Besides a better camera there isn’t much to upgrade.

2. TheNeighbor

Posts: 370; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Nah, I just bought the iPhone XS.

14. cmdacos

Posts: 4392; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Sorry to hear

31. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

LOL good one ;)

51. Menageryl

Posts: 20; Member since: Apr 25, 2019

Wow. Please let that be sarcasm.

18. mosavage

Posts: 2; Member since: Jun 21, 2019

Great choice,I’m getting my second one tomorrow,for my younger bro

3. c.m.s

Posts: 239; Member since: Dec 10, 2017

The big loser in this report seems to be OPPO. They went from 6% 2018 to just be part of the ”other” (which % has also shrunk) in 2019.

7. cogito

Posts: 75; Member since: Aug 18, 2015

Although they deny it, Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus are probably the same company.

8. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Deny it? They're all owned by BBK so you're a bit off the mark there.

15. maherk

Posts: 7065; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

That doesn't mean that they try to distance themselves from each other by denying that they are all under the same group.

22. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

@maherk If I understand your comment correctly, they're not denying anything. The arrangement is similar to the Volkswagen group, they own Porsche, Audi, Skoda etc

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