Grab one of the most popular handsets to go on sale in the past year, and chances are good, it's going to have an Apple logo stamped on the back.
That's according to Counterpoint Research, which posted its rankings of the best-selling smartphones of 2022. The list is essentially a round-up of the best iPhones, as Apple claimed 8 of the 10 spots in Counterpoint's rankings, which cover the global market. That's the first time a single phone maker has done that, according to the market research firm.
The iPhone 13 claimed the No. 1 slot, with a 5% overall share of the market. The iPhone 13 Pro Max came in second, followed by the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which came out in late 2022 but still managed to grab a 1.7% share.
The iPhone 13 lineup had an advantage over many other devices that landed in Counterpoint's Top 10. Since those phones debuted in October 2021, they were on sale for the entirety of 2022. A price cut to the iPhone 13 following the iPhone 14's launch in September 2022 likely helped boos sales in what Counterpoint Research calls developing markets.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max's top 3 finish is also noteworthy, as Counterpoint says it's the first time the Pro Max version of Apple's phone enjoyed greater sales than the Pro and standard variations. In comparing the iPhone 14 vs. the iPhone 14 Pro, it's clear Apple loaded up its Pro models with more significant features, most notably improved cameras and faster processors. That's clearly motivated shoppers to pay up for the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, with the Pro Max's larger screen likely adding to that model's appeal.
Only two non-Apple phones landed in the Top 10 of 2022 smartphone sales, and both belong to Samsung. The Galaxy A13 landed at the fourth spot on Counterpoint's list, while the Galaxy A03 closed out the Top 10. Both are budget devices — Samsung sells the Galaxy A13 5G for $215, while the Galaxy A03 hover around the $100 mark — with Samsung's flagships and high-priced foldables missing out on the top 10.
What the best sellers tell us about the smartphone market
Android phones still make up the vast majority of devices that get sold around the world, with Statista claiming Android enjoyed a 71.7% market share to iOS's 27.6% share at the end of the fourth quarter in 2022. Nevertheless, individual iPhone models seem to enjoy greater popularity. Apart from customer loyalty and preference for one mobile OS over the other, we'd imagine the factors driving sales toward individual iPhone models include their performance, design and reputation for being among the best camera phones.
Looking closer at the Counterpoint Research numbers, we can make a few interesting observations about the handsets that landed in the Top 10 for global phone sales as well as those that missed the cut.
There's a demand for budget devices
We mentioned that the only Android phones to make the top 10 cost less than $220. But iPhone enthusiasts seemingly like a good bargain, too. The iPhone SE 20202, which costs $429, landed in the top 10 for smartphone sales, where it was joined by the iPhone 12. That latter model may have debuted back in 2020, but a series of price cuts have kept the device around as a low-cost alternative to more recent iPhones.
Flagship devices are certainly exciting, but they're not the only phones that people are snapping up. There's a growing interest in midrange and budget models, and you're seeing that reflected in the devices smartphone makers are putting out. It's why we're eager to see what Samsung and Google have planned for the Galaxy A54 and Pixel 7a, respectively, with both phones expected to debut in the coming months at Google I/O 2023.
Where the heck is Samsung Galaxy S22?
You can forgive the Galaxy S23's absence from the Counterpoint Research list, since it's only looking at phones that were on sale in 2022 and the latest Samsung flagships only came out last month. But not a single Galaxy S22 model landed in the top 10 despite those phones being on sale since February 2022. What gives?
If we had to guess, we'd assume that the absence is explained by the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus being modest upgrades over recent Galaxy S models. If you had bought a Samsung flagship within the last two years or so, there was little in those two S22 offerings to tempt you to upgrade. The bigger features were reserved for the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which, at $1,199, remains Samsung's most expensive phone outside of the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
A high cost isn't enough to stop people from buying your phone, as the iPhone 14 Pro Max's high ranking proves. But clearly shoppers found that phone more compelling than the S22 Ultra. It will be interesting to see if the same fate befalls the Galaxy S23 Ultra and its 200MP main camera a year from now when the 2023 global sales figures become available.
Apple's iPhone 14 Plus struggles
While you'll find a lot of iPhones in that Top 10 list, you won't see the iPhone 14 Plus — the only iPhone 14 model not to crack the Top 10. You could argue that the iPhone 14 Plus didn't have that big a sales window — it shipped a few weeks after the rest of Apple's fall phone releases — but the iPhone 13 mini was on sale the whole year, and it didn't make the list either. In fact, it was the only iPhone 13 model not to do so.
That's two iPhone release cycles where four models proved to be one iPhone too many. That would seem more evidence to back the argument that Apple should drop that fourth model — be it plus-sized or mini — and concentrate solely on the standard, Pro and Pro Max sizes that have proven more popular.
Based on iPhone 15 rumors, though, it's unlikely to happen. Most observers expect Apple to release four new models this fall, with an iPhone 15 Plus remaining in the lineup alongside the standard iPhone and the two iPhone 15 Pro models.
It's hard to break through the Apple/Samsung duopoly
With Apple and Samsung making up the entire top 10 of phone sales for the past year, it's more clear than ever that those two companies are the dominant players in the phone market and everyone else is just fighting for scraps. It's a question we asked before when wondering why Google's Pixel phones aren't more popular, despite the improvements Google's made with the Pixel 7.
Some of it comes down to availability — phones like the Pixel haven't been marketed in as many places in the past as devices from Apple and Samsung — and some of it's a matter of focus. (Motorola does a respectable business with its low-cost Moto G series, but there are so many different variations, it's harder for a single model to break through.) Whatever the case, it appears to be a Samsung and Apple World — and more Apple than Samsung, according to the numbers — and the rest of us are just living in it.