Samsung, which once led the smartphone market in India, slid to the third position in the quarter that ended in December, even as the South Korean giant continues to make major bets on the rare handset market that is still growing. 158 million smartphones shipped in India in 2019, up from 145 million the year before, according to research firm Counterpoint.
Chinese firm Vivo surpassed Samsung to become the second biggest smartphone vendor in India in Q4 2019. Xiaomi, with command over 27% of the market, maintained its top spot in the nation for the tenth consecutive quarter.
Vivo's annual smartphone shipment grew 76% in 2019. The Chinese firm's aggressive positioning of its budget S series of smartphones -- priced between $100 to $150 (the sweet spot in India) -- in the brick and mortar market and acceptance of e-commerce sales helped it beat Samsung, said Counterpoint analysts.
Vivo's market share jumped 132% between Q4 of 2018 and Q4 of 2019, according to the research firm.
Samsung has dramatically lowered prices of some of its handsets in the country and also introduced smartphones with local features, but it is struggling to compete with an army of Chinese smartphone makers. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Realme has taken the Indian market by storm. The two-year-old firm has replicated Xiaomi's playbook in the country and so far focused on selling aggressively low-cost Android smartphones online.
Vivo and Oppo, on the other hand, have over the years expanded to smaller cities and towns in the country and inked deals with merchants. The companies have offered merchants fat commission to incentivize them to promote their handsets over those of the rivals.
Xiaomi, which entered India six years ago, sold handsets exclusively through online channels to cut overhead, but has since established presence in about 10,000 brick and mortar stores (including some through partnership with big retail chains). The company said in September last year that it had shipped 100 million smartphones in the country.
India surpasses the U.S.
The report, released late Friday (local time), also states that India, with 158 million smartphone shipments in 2019, took over the U.S. in annual smartphone shipment for the first time.
India, which was already the world's second largest smartphone market for total handset install base, is now also the second largest market for annual shipment of smartphones.
Tarun Pathak, a senior analyst at Counterpoint, told TechCrunch that about 150 million to 155 million smartphone units were shipped in the U.S. in 2019.
As smartphone shipments decline in most countries, India has emerged as a rare market where people are still showing great appetite for new handsets. There are nearly half a billion smartphones in use in the country today -- but more than half a billion people in the nation are yet to get one.