According to a new report from Gartner, worldwide sales of smartphones to end users grew 3.9 percent year over year to 349 million units in the first quarter 2016. Smartphone sales accounted for more than three quarters of total mobile phone sales during the period, Gartner said.
Gartner principal research analyst Tuong Huy Nguyen said the disparate smartphone sales and shipment figures are representative of what each measurement is tracking. While shipment totals measure the volume of devices pumped into the channel, sales totals are a reflection of how many devices actually end up in consumer hands, he said.
Since sales totals can include shipment inventory from previous quarters, it is possible for sales figures to top shipment figures in a given period, as they did in the first quarter 2016.
“All the vendors in the market recognize that 2016 is probably going to be a slower year, so they aren’t stocking the channel as robustly,” Nguyen said. “So they’re using up existing stock.”
Gartner said the first quarter bump in sales was driven mainly by demand for low-cost smartphones in emerging markets and affordable 4G smartphones across the globe. This continued demand is expected to translate to modest smartphone sales growth of around 1.3 percent year over year for the full year 2016, Nguyen said.
Though Samsung and Apple remained the dominant brands in the January to March quarter, Gartner said Chinese smartphone brands like Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi continued to make gains.
“Chinese brands are emerging as the new top global brands, Gartner research directo Anshul Gupta said. “Two Chinese brands ranked within the top five worldwide smartphone vendors in the first quarter of 2015, and represented 11 percent of the market. In the first quarter of 2016, there were three Chinese brands – Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi – and they achieved 17 percent of the market."