Apple ends Samsung's decade-plus run as global smartphone shipment leader

It's the first time Apple has held the top spot.


The year 2023 turned out to be a big one for Apple's iPhone. First, it got rid of the longstanding lightning port, and now reports indicate that Apple overtook Samsung for the title of most smartphones shipped globally. The International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker's preliminary data found that Apple shipped 234.6 million units in 2023, which is equal to 20.1 percent of the market share. In comparison, Samsung shipped 226.6 units for 19.4 percent of the market share. Canalys, a global technology market analyst firm, shared findings that mirrored those from the IDC.

This instance marks the first time Samsung has fallen out of the number one spot since 2010, when Nokia was in the lead and Apple didn't even crack the top five. In 2023, Xiaomi, OPPO and Transsion took the remaining three spots with 145.9, 103.1 and 94.9 million smartphones shipped globally, respectively.

The shift is notable given the crowding and continued regulations in the smartphone industry. "Apple certainly played a part in Samsung's drop in rank, but the overall Android space is diversifying within itself. Huawei is back and making inroads quickly within China, Brands like OnePlus, Honor, Google, and others are launching very competitive devices in the lower price range of the high end. And foldables and increased discussions around AI capabilities on the smartphone are gaining traction," Ryan Reith, IDC's Worldwide Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers group vice president, explained in a statement. "Overall, the smartphone space is headed towards a very interesting time."

Notably, overall smartphone shipments declined by 3.2 percent in 2023 but increased by 8.4 percent in quarter four. However, Apple is struggling to compete in China, with quarter four sales in the region 11 percent lower than the previous year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company has cut its iPhones by the equivalent of about $70 ahead of Lunar New Year, a time filled with presents. Discounting its most recent iPhone, in this case the iPhone 15, is a rarity for Apple but could have a payoff in a struggling market.