Apple to Dethrone Samsung as World’s Largest Smartphone Maker

Apple seems poised to overtake Samsung as the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer in 2017’s fourth quarter, according to new data published by market research firm TrendForce.

The Taiwanese firm estimates that Apple will achieve a 19.1 percent market share in the quarter, thanks to strong iPhone X in the normally busy holiday shopping season. That would place the Cupertino tech giant slightly ahead of Samsung’s estimated 18.2 percent market share in the same quarter.

With Apple at the top and Samsung trailing close behind, Chinese OEMs Huawei, OPPO and Xiaomi are expected to round out the top 5 manufacturers — in that order.

Samsung has maintained a strong market share in recent years, thanks to its wide range of available products. Unlike Apple, which typically caters to the higher-end market, Samsung’s devices span the gamut from low-end devices as cheap as $200 to flagship handsets like the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8.

Dethroning Samsung is an impressive feat for Apple. And it largely has to do with demand for Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X stealing some of the market share from Samsung’s top-tier handsets, according to TrendForce.

“Samsung is expected to slightly scale back the production of its high-end models in the fourth quarter as the brand is seeing the sales of its smartphones being squeezed by the strong demand for Apple’s latest iPhone devices,” TrendForce wrote in its report. “(We) estimate that Samsung’s fourth-quarter total volume will come to 77 million units, a 5% drop from the third quarter.”

Throughout the third quarter, Apple’s production was sustained by the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. And while yield rate issues for the iPhone X delayed production, the Taiwan-based firm estimates that total iPhone production will reach 81 million units — with the iPhone X accounting for 33 percent of that. Notably, TrendForce expects iPhone X production to stabilize and see a surge that will last through the first half of 2018.

But while Apple’s forecasted dominance is impressive, it’s not altogether unexpected. The company has always seen its strongest demand in the fourth quarter — since it typically launches new flagship devices in the fall. Apple overtook Samsung in 2016’s fourth quarter, too.

As far as Apple’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models are concerned, another research firm, Canalys, estimated that the iPhone 8 Plus outpaced the smaller model iPhone 8 in the third quarter — the first Plus-sized iPhone to ship more units than its smaller stablemate in a single quarter.

While Apple doesn’t release iPhone sales stats by individual model, CEO Tim Cook has said that the iPhone 8 Plus has “gotten off to the fastest start of any Plus model.” That, Cook added, was “a bit of a surprise” for Cupertino.

For the fourth quarter of 2017, Apple provided unprecedented revenue guidance of around $84 to $87 billion. That suggests Apple is expecting strong holiday quarter demand for the iPhone X — and hints that the company could easily beat its all-time record for single quarter revenue: $78.4 billion, which was set in Q4 2016.

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