Samsung won back India's premium market crown in Q1, but the OnePlus 6T was the top-selling phone

Samsung won back India's premium market crown in Q1, but the OnePlus 6T was the top-selling phone
Both Apple and Samsung struggled to keep up with Huawei's impressive growth in Q1 2019 global smartphone shipments, losing precious market share compared to the same period of last year, but while iPhone sales continued to tumble in China, the Galaxy S10 family reportedly helped its manufacturers boost their (microscopic) numbers in the world's largest market.

The same seems to apply to India, where the early launch of the S10, S10+, and S10e has apparently allowed Samsung to recoup its "premium" segment crown from the champion of the previous three quarters. We're talking about OnePlus, which did manage to rank second between January and March for regional sales of smartphones priced at the rough equivalent of $430 and up, ahead of Apple, according to Counterpoint Research.

Samsung vs OnePlus - new vs old

Before getting too excited, hardcore Samsung fans should keep in mind the OnePlus 6T had its moment during the final three months of 2018, having seen daylight in November, while the Galaxy S10 lineup took India by storm in early March. It's therefore hardly surprising that this premium market saw a change in leadership between Q4 2018 and Q1 2019, and in fact, Samsung's share declined from Q1 2018, when the company also topped the segment, ahead of OnePlus and Apple.

Meanwhile, it's definitely worth pointing out that the OnePlus 6T was still the single best-selling high-end model in India in the January - March 2019 timeframe, eclipsing the Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10 with a 26 percent slice of the pie, compared to 16 and 12 percent respectively. That means the combined sales numbers of the S10 and S10 Plus narrowly exceeded those of the 6T alone, suggesting the more affordable S10e made a pretty big difference.

Looking ahead, it will be very interesting to see how the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro are able to perform against Samsung's latest expanded flagship lineup. There's obviously a good chance the market will see another change in leaders for Q2, but we're also curious regarding the gap between the gold and silver medalists in the next quarterly report.

Apple needs to fend off Huawei and Google

Strictly looking at India's premium market, the newest iPhones aren't doing so poorly. While Apple fell from second place in Q4 to third right now, the company is still considered one of the nation's high-end heavyweights, accounting for a whopping 90 percent of the segment's shipments when combined with OnePlus and Samsung's numbers. But that towering figure is actually down from 95 percent in Q1 2018, as Huawei is starting to make progress with both the Mate and P series.

The uncontested champion of the Chinese market has been making huge inroads into Western Europe over the past couple of years, but if it manages to crack India as well, Samsung's global domination is pretty much doomed. Interestingly, it seems Huawei is rising faster in India's premium segment than the country's overall smartphone market, where it is yet to enter the top five, based on the latest Canalys research.

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Meanwhile, although it's far too early to make any reliable predictions, the launch of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL could help Google "start things from scratch in emerging markets like India where the premium segment is small but growing fast." The Pixel 3 and 3 XL are way too expensive to stand a chance at locking in first-time users of premium handsets, but the 3a and 3a XL might just be affordable enough to provide stiff competition for the likes of the iPhone XR, Galaxy S10e, and the upcoming OnePlus 7.

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