iPhone fatigue and fading Samsung. This planet is bored with big brand phones

Good news if you're Chinese, though

Woman uses headphones with her iPhone. Photo by Shutterstock

Samsung already had plenty to worry about before its flagship phone started exploding.

Strategy Analytics reckons the Korean giant’s phone sales have fallen 10 per cent. And it’s not alone. Apple is experiencing “iPhone” fatigue after years of merely incremental upgrades, down 5 per cent globally over the year.

Overall global smartphone shipments in Q3 grew, bucking the flatline phone sales have been in for a while. Q3 saw shipments of 375 million, up 6 per cent on Q3 2015, and the strongest growth for a year.

Samsung shipped 75.3 million and Apple 45.5 million phones.

Although Apple’s indifferent performance was “priced in” to the analyst's predictions, that’s largely because Cupertino has managed Wall Street's expectations so well. It has slipped from 14 per cent to 12 per cent share worldwide. The long-term trend is what Strategy Analytics calls “iPhone fatigue among many consumers in major regions such as China and Europe”.

Samsung fell further, from 24 per cent share to 20 per cent, and that’s without the most significant impact of the Note 7 catastrophe being reflected in the numbers, which count shipments in the period from June 1 to September 30.

Unveiled on August 2, the Note 7’s global rollout was delayed - apparently some reports of batteries catching fire in Korea - then shipped only to be recalled in early September The second and final recall didn’t take place until October. Samsung had only made 2.5 million Note 7s, but the brand “contagion” could be significant. Now two out of five Samsung owners say they’re reluctant to go out with Sammy ever again.

Q4 2016 global smartphone shipments. Source: Strategy Analytics

The figures suggest that after almost a decade, Apple has now saturated the part of the market prepared to pay higher margins for the assurance of the Apple brand. Apple problem is its subtle and clever innovations are largely invisible to the naked eye, whereas the single big visible change is one that’s a consumer inconvenience - the removal of the standard headphone port.

Apple sales were falling before the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus because it hadn’t satisfied demand for larger displays, and sales revived after the larger models were introduced. This year the iPhone SE was supposed to revive left-behind iPhone owners who found the newer models inconvenient, but it’s an irrelevance in China, where consumers only buy larger display models. (In a week in Shanghai recently I saw dozens of iPhones, but all were the Plus.) A radical redesign is in the offing, and it can’t come soon enough.

The other 88 per cent of the market is now keenly price-conscious, and Samsung’s brand means less and less. The real winners here are the Chinese.

Huawei is now entrenched in third place worldwide with 9 per cent of the market, and OPPO fourth with 5.8 per cent, which grew like topsy last year. Together, they sell more than Apple. ®

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