Smartphone vendors shipped a total of 375.4 million units worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2018, down 4.9 percent year on year and the fifth straight quarter of decline, according to preliminary data from IDC. The result closes out the worst year ever for smartphone shipments, as global smartphone volumes declined 4.1 percent in 2018 with a total of 1.4 billion units shipped. IDC attributed the ongoing slowdown to a number of factors, including lengthening replacement cycles, increasing penetration levels in many large markets, political and economic uncertainty, combined with growing consumer frustration around continuously rising price points, according Telecompaper.
The researcher said the arrival of both 5G and foldable devices later this year is likely to push up price points even further and operators and retailers will need to fully maximise trade-in offers for older devices to push upgrades throughout 2019. After last month predicting that shipments will begin to grow again in 2019, IDC now says challenging market conditions indicate that the likelihood of another year of decline is becoming more of a reality.
In terms of vendors, Samsung continued as market leader in Q4 even though shipments fell 5.5 percent to 70.4 million units for an 18.7 percent share, just a few points above Apple and Huawei. Things weren't much better for the full year as 2018 volumes were down 8 percent to 292.3 million. Apple saw iPhone volumes drop 11.5 percent to 68.4 million in the fourth quarter, despite the three new models. Total iPhone volumes were down 3.2 percent to 208.8 million for the full year.
Huawei continued to capitalise on strong momentum in some markets with Q4 volumes up 43.9 percent year on year to 60.5 million and 2018 volumes up 33.6 percent to 206.0 million thanks in part to the growing success of its Honor line of devices. OPPO finished Q4 in the fourth position with 29.2 million units and full-year shipments of 113.1 million, up 1.3 percent from 2017, according Telecompaper. 
Xiaomi followed with holiday quarter of shipments of 28.6 million and full-year shipments up 32.2 percent year on year to 113.1 million. Like OPPO, India and Indonesia continued as Xiaomi’s main focus markets outside of China although the brand has done exceptionally well in a few markets in Western Europe, most notably Spain.