Topic: Market share
Google’s Education Strategy Profiled in New York Times (May 15, 2017)
Strategy Analytics Says Apple Top Wearables Vendor in Q1 (May 8, 2017)
IDC Says Q1 Tablet Shipments Were Down 8.5% Year on Year (May 5, 2017)
Counterpoint Says Apple has 80% Share of Premium Smartphones in China Despite Overall Fall (May 4, 2017)
Counterpoint, which I’ve referenced previously here as a solid source on smartphone market share and so on, especially in Asian markets, has an update on Q1 smartphone performance in China. The headline is that Apple, Xiaomi, and especially Samsung saw their shipments drop significantly year on year, while local companies Oppo, Vivo, and Huawei did better, in a market that grew just 4% year on year. The Apple drop is worth noting because China performance has been a major talking point on its recent earnings calls (including this week) and there are lots of explanations flying around about why it’s struggling there. I linked to this piece a while back, and Ben Thompson had an interesting piece this week on Stratechery about the role WeChat plays in China and how that impacts Apple. But it’s worth noting the details on the premium market in China in this Counterpoint post. It argues that Apple’s performance in China (as elsewhere) is highly cyclical, but that it consistently takes 80% of the $600+ market. In other words, Apple’s share remains very strong in the segment where it competes, but much of the activity in China is at lower levels where Apple doesn’t compete. In that sense, there’s nothing new here, and the growth of the sub-premium segments is to be expected in a maturing market that’s reaching lower income tiers of the population. But if the premium segment is actually shrinking in real terms rather than just relative terms, that’s more problematic because it would indicate consumers who could afford iPhones are nonetheless choosing to buy the cheaper alternatives. So far, I’ve seen little evidence of that, but it’s worth watching future numbers from Counterpoint and elsewhere to see if that pattern starts to emerge. For now, I’m still more inclined to read what’s happening in China as part of a cycle which is already starting to correct and should do so more meaningfully later this year.
Yesterday, we had IDC’s PC numbers for Q1 2017, and today we have Gartner’s. As usual, they show pretty different trends (IDC the first growth in five years, Gartner the lowest total shipments since 2007), because the companies define the market in different ways. Whereas those IDC numbers were for “traditional” PCs, these Gartner numbers include what some call “detachables” and Gartner calls “ultra mobile premiums” such as the Microsoft Surface. Interestingly, though, whereas in the past those detachable and convertible devices have led Gartner’s numbers to grow faster than IDC’s, the situation now appears to be reversed. That’s interesting, given how hot this category has been and how much it’s helped the overall PC market in the past couple of years. My guess is that the trend will go back to its previous pattern the rest of the year. The two companies do agree on some trends though: HP had a great quarter, particularly in the US, and component shortages are driving some interesting trends. However, whereas IDC saw the latter driving higher shipments in Q1 to get ahead of price increases, Gartner focuses on the downward pressure on shipments the component shortage is likely to cause in the rest of the year due to price increases. IDC and Gartner also agree that the “other” category is suffering badly as the big names consolidate share.
It’s unfortunate that we have to rely on stats from a porn site to measure VR market share, but beggars can’t be choosers. Obviously, there may be reasons why the usage this site sees isn’t representative of the market as a whole, but the numbers here are far from surprising: Gear VR is by far the largest chunk of usage, which absolutely aligns with the numbers we’re seen in terms of devices sold / in use. Google’s Daydream, meanwhile, has a tiny fraction of the market, which is also unsurprising given its relative newness and the limited distribution of headsets and compatible phones. Gear VR has become the de facto standard for Android VR and mobile VR more broadly, and Daydream VR will only do well if essentially every other Android vendor supports it in their handsets and pushes it aggressively to consumers. So far, that hasn’t happened, with predictable results.
Apple Tops Samsung in the Fourth Quarter to Close Out a Roller Coaster Year for the Smartphone Market, According to IDC (Feb 2, 2017)
Pick your poison here – most of the big names have put out similar releases this week crowning Apple the victor in the December quarter for smartphone sales, narrowly pipping Samsung. This is an entirely symbolic victory, but it’s the kind of thing that often causes the more negatives around Apple to die down temporarily (which isn’t to say there haven’t still been various articles this week warning that Apple’s next phone had better be be a big deal or else). Two other things worth noting here: Apple only ever comes in at number 1 in the December quarter, when it sells massively more iPhones than in any other quarter, and so for the year as a whole Apple will always be behind Samsung. Secondly, the IDC figures and others I’ve seen seem to have used Apple’s official iPhone sell-in figure for its first fiscal quarter – there are issues with using sell-in as opposed to sell through in these contexts, but I see the logic in using an official figure rather than an estimated one. However, there’s a problem with this approach of taking Apple’s number this quarter, because Apple’s quarter actually started in the last week of September this year, giving an extra week of sales very early in the iPhone 7 cycle. Without that extra week of sales, it’s very likely Apple wouldn’t have been ahead of Samsung, but I’ve seen none of these market share numbers acknowledge that fact or adjust Apple’s number downward to account for it.
Cheaper Rivals Eat Away at Apple Sales in China – WSJ (Feb 1, 2017)
This is a story that’s been going for a while now – China’s sales in China have been down, but ironically the quarter just reported was the first in quite a while in which its revenues in China itself were actually flat, per Tim Cook’s remarks on the earnings call yesterday. In other words, in China (as opposed to the Greater China region) Apple grew in constant currency by 6% year on year, its best performance in a year. However, as with other smartphone markets around the world, as the Chinese market continues to grow, more new users will choose cheaper Android phones than iPhones as their first phones, and those who prioritize price will always choose something other than an iPhone. The reason Tim Cook always emphasizes switchers and new users is that this is where future growth will come from, even as Apple’s market share falls – new users become upgraders in the next cycle, and as the market saturates, Apple’s share tends to rise. It’s too early to know yet whether that will happen in China, but that’s what Cook is banking on, not steadily increasing market share in a market that’s far from maturity.
I cited some Counterpoint data on India the other day, and in that context said that they do a good job with these non-Western markets – these numbers are solid, although it’s interesting to see these results for China come out before Apple and several other companies have reported their results for the fourth quarter. Unlike India, China is a major contributor to Apple’s overall results, and there’s usually lots of commentary about the rate of growth there, so it’ll be interesting to compere these numbers with what Apple releases next week. In the meantime, there’s lot of interesting stuff here – over the full year, Xiaomi and Apple fared poorly out of the major vendors, though Apple’s Q4 sales held up a lot better than in Q1-Q3. Lenovo’s year in China was a disaster, and it will be very grateful once again that it has Motorola in the rest of the world to buoy things up a bit. The big story is Oppo and Vivo, which have broken into the top rankings globally off the back of a strong showing in China, but Huawei also did very well. It’s also interesting to look at the data in here on individual models, where the two iPhone 6s variants both score in the top 10, and two Oppo phones are in the top 5, including the number 1 slot. The whole post is well worth a read if you’re interested in the Chinese market.
Can Huawei Catch Apple and Samsung? – Fortune (Jan 25, 2017)
This piece somewhat acts as if Huawei came out of nowhere into the number 3 spot behind Samsung and Apple in the global smartphone market, and while it’s risen rapidly to the top in individual markets, its global rise has been happening for much longer. It’s been the number three for the last six quarters (likely seven once Q4 2016 is reported on), and has been in the top ten since at least 2011. It may well have crept up on US observers, many of whom don’t tend to focus on emerging markets as much as the US and Western Europe, but this story has been underway for quite some time. Huawei is the big global success story among the ranks of Chinese smartphone vendors, most of whom have done well in China and some emerging markets but less well elsewhere. But Huawei still hasn’t cracked the US, where the carriers I’ve spoken to seem to be reluctant to put a relatively unknown Chinese brand on shelves next to premium products from Apple and Samsung. I don’t think Huawei needs to succeed in the US to be successful, and perhaps not even to catch Apple in raw market share terms, but it’s obviously never going to match Apple in terms of profits.
Counterpoint Research has good data on the global smartphone market, and especially in emerging markets like India, so the numbers here are broadly reliable. India is a fascinating market – Apple and others have often compared it to China, but though the size is similar the demographics and wealth are very different, even if you compare India today to China a few years back. I’m not yet convinced that India is going to look like China does today anytime soon from a smartphone perspective, and that makes life very tough for a brand like Apple, which was tenth in the overall market share rankings. It did capture 62% of the premium market in Q4, but the premium segment is only a tiny fraction of the overall Indian market, which continues to be dominated by cheaper handsets, increasingly coming from Chinese vendors. You might be interested in this piece I wrote a few months ago about Apple’s prospects in India.
The iPhone is gaining ground on Android in the U.S. – Recode (Jan 11, 2017)
Kantar’s data is solid, so these conclusions are reliable, and they suggest a bifurcation in iPhone market share between the US and China. It’s rising in the former, and falling in the latter, which is actually to be expected. The iPhone’s share of the market has generally fallen over time in most markets as they expand and more new buyers at the lower end of the market buy cheaper phones. But as markets mature and begin to saturate, there’s potential for the iPhone to gain share, because share is driven by switching and not by new low end users coming into the market, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now in the US. The key for iPhone sales growth (not share growth, which is not itself important to Apple) going forward is to drive switching behavior, hence Tim Cook’s frequent references to record Android switching rates on earnings calls.