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Samsung catches flak from exploding phones as Apple retakes lead in mobile

Tim Cook holds the billionth iPhone at an employee meeting in Cupertino.
Tim Cook holds the billionth iPhone at an employee meeting in Cupertino. Apple
Apple set the pace for smartphone market share in the fourth quarter of 2016, narrowly edging out its main rival, according to new data from independent research firm Strategy Analytics.

During the final three months of the year, Apple shipped 78.3 million devices, up from 74.8 million during the same period in 2015. Rival Samsung shipped roughly 800,000 less — allowing Apple to seize the lead for the fiscal quarter with 17.8 percent of global market share, compared to Samsung’s 17.7 percent.

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Strategy Analytics notes that Samsung’s fourth-quarter shipments were down 3.8 million year-over-year, which the firm attributed to the Galaxy Note 7 battery controversy. The South Korean company’s 17.7 quarterly share and 20.8 annual share are its lowest since 2011. Despite the slide, Samsung still managed to sell 309 million smartphones in 2016, while Apple moved 215 million.

Insights from Apple’s earnings call on Tuesday support the claim that the company benefited from Samsung’s botched launch. CEO Tim Cook shared that 50 percent of Apple’s sales in China during what it terms the first quarter of 2017 (the fourth quarter of calendar year 2016) went to switchers and first-time buyers, as opposed to existing iPhone users, and that the total install base “continues to grow [in China], in the strong double digits.”

Apple’s boost in market share was mirrored by a strong quarter for the company’s Services segment, which encompasses digital content revenue streams like the App Store and Apple Music. Over the same span, the division earned $7.17 billion — a growth of 18 percent from the $6.05 billion earned the previous year.

Beyond Apple and Samsung, other players in the smartphone industry have seen key gains. Third-place Huawei broke double-digits in market share for the first time ever, reaching 10.2 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 8.1 percent in the closing months of 2015. Oppo followed with its own historic reporting period, doubling its share of the global market year-over-year to 6.7 percent, good for fourth position.

Although the top two companies overall shipped less devices throughout the entirety of last year than they had in 2015, Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and others picked up the slack to make 2016 a record year for smartphone sales. Manufacturers shifted 50 million more units in 2016 compared to the previous year, making for a total of 1.49 billion sold globally.

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