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iPhone Dips as Android Extends Lead in Smart Phones

Shipments of Apple's iPhone declined for the first time in the fourth quarter of last year, according to new information released by market research firm Gartner.

Overall growth of smart phones in 2015 was slower than at any point since 2008; nevertheless, growth was substantial. Worldwide, a total of 1.424 billion devices — or one for every five people on the planet. About 403.1 million shipped in the fourth quarter alone. Growth in the fourth quarter was 9.7 percent compared with Q4 2014. Growth for the year was 14.4 percent compared with 2014.

During the year and the fourth quarter, Android continued to expand its domination of the smart phone market, accounting for 80.7 percent of all smart phones shipped in the quarter, up from 76 percent in the same period in 2014.

"Android benefited from continued demand for affordable smart phones and from the slowdown of iOS units in the premium market in the fourth quarter of 2015," said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, in a prepared statement.

  • In the fourth quarter, Samsung was the top phone maker, with 83.4 million units sold. That was up from 73 million units in the same period the previous year, when it was running in second place behind Apple.
  • No. 2 Apple shipped 71.5 million phones, down from 74.8 million in the same period in 2014.
  • Huawei came in third place with 32.1 million phones shipped, up from 21 million in Q4 2014.
  • Lenovo as fourth on shipments of 20 million phones, down from about 24.3 million in Q4 2014.
  • And No. 5 Xiaomi came in at 18.2 million units, just about flat compared with 18.5 million in 4Q 2015.

"Low-cost smart phones in emerging markets, and strong demand for premium smart phones, continued to be the driving factors," said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "An aggressive pricing from local and Chinese brands in the midrange and entry-level segments of emerging markets led to consumers upgrading more quickly to affordable smart phones." 

For the full year:

  • Samsung was the No. 1 phone vendor, with 320.2 million units shipped, up from 307.6 the previous year.
  • Apple was also up for the year, despite weak fourth-quarter results. Apple shipped 225.9 million iPhones in 2015 compared with 191.4 the previous year.
  • Huawei, Leno and Xiaomi rounded out the top 5 at 104.1 million, 72.7 million and 65.6 million units, respectively.

Samsung, however, "faces challenges," despite its strong showing in 2015, according to Gartner. "For Samsung to stop falling sales of premium smart phones, it needs to introduce new flagship smart phones that can compete with iPhones and stop the churn to iOS devices," said Gupta. 

Just this week, Samsung unveiled its flagship lineup for 2016, including the Galaxy S7 and S Edge, bringing back support for removable media — a feature Samsung was criticized for removing from the S6 and other devices — though the company chose not to bring back removable batteries. It also added waterproofing to its devices (up to 30 minutes one meter deep)

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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