The prominence of the iPhone in North America and much of Western Europe belies a simple fact: Apple has never been the top-selling smartphone brand across the globe. Blame it on Apple’s unwillingness to compete in the budget phone space, perhaps, but the number one spot usually belongs to Samsung.
While Apple no longer gives sales figures for the iPhone, market analysts track shipments carefully, and now two of them, IDC and Canalys, both say that Apple sold more smartphones in 2023 than any other brand. Samsung dropped to the number two spot.
The gap is close to be sure. Canalys says both brands round off to 20 percent, with Apple having the slight edge. IDC says that Apple shipped 234.6 million smartphones, to Samsung’s 226.6—just a few tenths of a percent less total market share. But it’s still notable.
Both analysts acknowledge that this is the first time Apple has ever topped the chart for global smartphone shipments for an entire year. Samsung has held the top spot since 2011 when it shot past Nokia and RIM at the top of the list.
While Apple’s increased shipments are part of the reason it took the top spot (IDC estimates shipments were up 3.7 percent for Apple), it’s the sharp decline in shipments from Samsung that is most responsible. The company shipped 262 million smartphones in 2022, but that dropped over 13 percent in 2023. Samsung has been focusing on mid- and high-end smartphones to improve profitability, and there’s a lot of global volume in budget phones.