As global sales of smartphones stall, the two companies with the largest slice of the market are losing ground to competition from China.
Apple saw its phone sales down 11% year-on-year, while South Korean market leader Samsung lost 9% of its share of sales in 2018.
Figures released by research company Gartner show that Apple recorded its worst quarterly decline in almost two years, while Chinese competitors Huawei, Xiaomi, and OPPO all increased their shares of the international market.
Apple’s customers seem to be holding on to their old phones for longer, shying away from the high cost and comparatively low levels of innovation in newer devices.
Amid the scandal over Apple slowing down old phones and an offer to replace batteries freely, the American company sold 10 million fewer phones in 2018 than in 2017.
Meanwhile, network equipment maker Huawei grew considerably as a handset provider in 2018, increasing its sales by 37.6% to close the gap with Apple to within 0.4% of total global market share.
Fellow Chinese companies OPPO and Xiaomi have done less than Huawei to explore markets outside of Asia Pacific.
Gartner’s senior research director Anshul Gupta told Sky News that incremental technological changes meant that Apple’s premium market offering wasn’t bringing out the new buyers.
Demand for entry-level and mid-price smartphones remained strong across markets, but demand for high-end smartphones continued to slow in the fourth quarter of 2018, Mr Gupta said.
Slowing incremental innovation at the high end, coupled with price increases, deterred replacement decisions for high-end smartphones, Mr Gupta added.
There was, however, plenty of room for innovations to shake-up the smartphone market, with Apple leading the charge on most of them.
Mr Gupta added that with improvements to batteries, processing, sensors, AI and cameras, there is a lot of technology out there which could transform the smartphone user experience.
Although Samsung is strengthening its smartphone offering at the mid-tier, it continues to face growing competition from Chinese brands that are expanding into more markets, said Mr Gupta.
It also faces difficulty bringing significant innovation to high-end smartphones, he added, a day before Samsung’s launch event.
Samsung’s newest offering – the first foldable smartphone from a major phone maker – potentially delivers on something more than incremental innovation, but will set consumers back an eye-watering $1,980 (about £1,500).
Samsung’s shares were trading slightly up following the launch of the device.
(c) Sky News 2019: iPhone sales slump 11% as Chinese competitors gain ground