Smartphone sales inch up driven by cheaper devices

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Smartphone sales grew a modest 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018, driven by higher-quality devices at lower price points.

According to Gartner, smartphones sales to end users totalled 383.5 million in Q1, compared to 378.5 million in the corresponding quarter of 2017.

"Demand for premium and high-end smartphones continued to suffer due to marginal incremental benefits during upgrade," said Anshul Gupta, Research Director at Gartner. "Demand for entry-level smartphones (sub-$100) and low mid-tier smartphones (sub-$150) improved due to better-quality models."

Chinese players Huawei and Xiaomi were the big winners. The former grew sales to 40.4 million from 34.2 million, driving its market share to 10.5 percent from 9 percent a year earlier. The latter's share jumped to 7.4 percent from 3.4 percent, as sales surged to 28.5 million from 12.7 million.

Huawei and Xiaomi's expansion into Europe and Latin America has put pressure on market leader Samsung. The South Korean vendor saw Q1 sales contract slightly to 78.6 million units from 78.8 million; its market share fell to 20.5 percent from 20.8 percent.

Meanwhile, second-placed Apple sold 54.1 million iPhones, compared to 52 million in Q1 2017, driving its market share to 14.1 percent, up from 13.7 percent.

"Even though demand for Apple's iPhone X exceeded that of iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, the vendor struggled to drive significant smartphone replacements, which led to slower-than-expected growth in the first quarter of 2018," said Gupta. "With its exclusive focus on premium smartphones, Apple needs to significantly raise the overall experience of its next-generation iPhones to trigger replacements and lead to solid growth in the near future."