Global smartphone shipments shrank for the first time ever year over year and the tablets had their worst quarter since 2012 in January to March period, new data from Strategy Analytics indicates.
According to the reports, smartphone shipments dropped three percent annually from 345 million in the first quarter 2015 to just 335 million units this year. Strategy Analytics said it was the first time since 1996 that global shipments in the modern smartphone market have decreased on an annualized basis.
Though some vendors, like OPPO, vivo and Huawei, pulled off impressive growth during the first quarter, shipment totals dropped for dominant vendors Samsung and Apple.
While Samsung managed to beat earnings expectations and posted increased revenue and profits, the company’s shipment figures slipped four percent year over year to just 79 million in the first quarter.
Apple’s numbers fell even further, dropping 16 percent year over year from 61.2 million in 2015 to 51.2 million in the first quarter 2016.
Both Samsung and Apple also saw a year-over-year decrease in their vendor market share during the first quarter, though Apple’s drop was again larger than Samsung’s. The latter dipped minimally from 24 percent to 23.6 percent while Apple fell from 17.7 percent market share to just 15. 3 percent. Conversely, number three vendor Huawei made significant market share gains, rising from five percent market share in the first quarter 2015 to 8.5 percent in the same quarter this year.
Tablets hurting, too
Tablet shipments also tumbled in the first quarter, marking their worst quarter since 2012.
According to Strategy Analytics data, tablet shipments dropped 10 percent year over year to 46.5 million units in the first quarter.
Leading vendor White Box shipped just 13.3 million devices during the quarter compared to 14.7 million during the same period last year. Apple tablet shipments also fell 19 percent year over year from 12.6 million in the first quarter 2015 to 10.3 million this year, while Samsung’s shipment totals plummeted 26 percent year over year to just 6.5 million shipments. The period marked the ninth straight quarter of decline for Apple’s iPad, the report said.
Among the top five tablet vendors, Huawei was the only company to achieve growth in the first quarter, increasing its shipments 66 percent to 2.1 million.
What’s behind the numbers?
In a research note posted earlier this month, BTIG attributed some of the smartphone slowdown to an “undeniable lengthening” of device replacement cycles. This observation was reflected in the carriers’ reduced upgrade rates in the first quarter, which dropped from 6.5 percent to 5 percent and 6.5 percent to 5.8 percent for AT&T and Verizon, respectively. Maturity and saturation in larger markets like the U.S. and China is also having an impact on shipment figures.
Strategy Analytics Tablet and Touchscreen Strategies senior analyst Eric Smith said tablets are also facing an uphill battle with upgrade cycles.
“Tablet replacement cycles are creeping closer and closer to PC replacement cycles and further from smartphone replacement cycles,” Smith said. “The average is about four years.”
According to Smith, a lack of innovation and settling for “good enough” performance has had a hand in slowing down tablet replacements. Smith said new form factors could help tap into the device replacement market, but said the uptake of higher cost and higher performance 2-in-1 devices will also lengthen replacement cycles.
As with smartphones, Smith said it is the slowdown of device replacement cycles rather than the dip in tablet sales that will impact carriers the most.
“A slowdown in tablet sales may affect the carriers, but more than likely, it will be the replacement cycle that will limit subscription growth unless there are some fantastic deals available at the end of a 2-year contract,” Smith said.
Fortunately for carriers, Smith said some of the fastest growth in the tablet industry in the last year has come from vendors, like Huawei, Alcatel OneTouch and LG, selling lower-cost connected tablets.
Despite the slowdown, Smith said the total number of tablet subscriptions in the United States is on pace to surpass 28 million by the end of 2016, up from 23.9 million in 2015.