Samsung just lost in a big way for the first time in 13 years — and it got beat by Apple

iPhone 15 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra showing backs of the phones
(Image credit: Future)

Samsung has just lost the top spot in global smartphone shipment sales for the first time in over a decade. And it got beat by Apple.

According to data from market research firm IDC, Apple took a 20.1% share of the global market compared with Samsung's 19.4%. It's the first time Samsung hasn't been number one since it knocked Nokia off the podium all the way back in 2010.

This is the first time Apple has led the list and it's thanks to a breakaway performance in 2023 led by the iPhone 15 family. In fact, Apple was the only company in the top three (Xiaomi took 3rd place) to achieve positive year-on-year growth.

Apple's dominance over Samsung last year could be due in part to the way its walled garden captures younger users and keeps them on the platform. A report from the Financial Times, using data from ad tech company Attain, noted 34% of America’s iPhone owners were born after 1996. By contrast, just 10% of Gen Z owns a Samsung phone.

Moreover, as people hold onto their phones for longer, many are happy to spend a bit more on a premium device in the hope of future-proofing. And premium devices? Well, that's where Apple shines brightest.

"While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple," said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team. 

"Not only is Apple the only player in the Top 3 to show positive growth annually, but also bags the number 1 spot annually for the first time ever. All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market. Apple's ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fuelled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans."  

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Top 5 Companies, Worldwide Smartphone Shipments (millions), Market Share, YoY Growth
Company2023 Shipments2023 Market Share2022 Shipments2022 Market Share2023/2022 Growth
1. Apple234.620.1%226.318.8%3.7%
2. Samsung226.619.4%262.221.7%-13.6%
3. Xiaomi145.912.5%153.212.7%-4.7%
4. OPPO103.18.8%114.49.5%-9.9%
5. Transsion94.98.1%72.66.0%30.8%

 *Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, January 15, 2024

Alongside Apple's surge to the top of the list, the couple of key takeaways for me are the overall decline in the smartphone market as a whole (-3.2%) and the gigantic growth of Chinese company Transsion YoY.

As others have pointed out, the growth picked up in the second half of 2023, suggesting that a market recovery is possible for 2024. Question is, will Samsung manage to rally and recover the top spot?

Prepare for the onslaught to begin as soon as tomorrow when Samsung Unpacked takes place and we get our first of official look at the Samsung Galaxy S24 family.

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Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.