SOURCE: Kantar Worldpanel ComTech

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech

February 08, 2017 08:00 ET

2016 Smartphone OS Review: A Controversy That Wasn't -- Kantar

Apple Finishes 2016 as Top Smartphone Brand in the US

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Feb 8, 2017) - In September 2016, as the world awaited the release of iPhone 7, the anticipated absence of a traditional earphone jack was all anyone was talking about, according to a blog post this week by Lauren Guenveur, Consumer Insight Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. The press warned that this could spell trouble for Apple, and theorized that no one would want a phone without a standard audio jack.

"As often happens, buyers demonstrated that the pundits were wrong and Apple was right," Guenveur wrote. "Actual sales numbers for Q4 2016 showed iPhone 7 to be the best-selling phone in the US, Great Britain, Urban China, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia. This boosted Apple's market share higher than during the fourth quarter of 2015 when iPhone 6s was the flagship device."

Guenveur also mentioned Samsung's troubles during 2016.

"In an attempt to beat iPhone 7/7 Plus to market, Samsung hurriedly released the Note 7, and it was soon plagued by two different battery issues that ultimately led to its complete recall. As it turned out, the Note 7 problems have not hurt Samsung badly at all. Samsung sales in the US stayed nearly the same year-over-year, and the company remained the second largest brand in the US, with 28.5% of smartphone sales in Q4 2016. The Galaxy S7, which was occasionally mistaken for the Note 7 in some FAA airline safety notices, was the third-best selling device on the market."

However, Samsung did not come out completely unaffected, Guenveur added.

"Loyalty to the brand in the USA in the fourth quarter was 62%, the lowest level since before the launch of the Galaxy S6 in the first quarter of 2015, when it was 58%," she reported. "The announcement of the Samsung S8 and whatever features it comes with it might be enough to bring these numbers back up, as the Note 7's past difficulties fade from the collective memory."

Google achieved a 2% share of smartphone sales with its new Pixel and Pixel XL phones in Q4 2016. Pixel is outselling more established brands in the USA, including Alcatel, HTC, Huawei, and Microsoft.

"With Apple and Samsung capturing a combined 73% of US sales, Pixel may not be the predicted iPhone or Samsung killer, but it is certainly giving other struggling Android brands a run for their money. With production of the Pixel 2 rumored to have begun, it will be interesting to watch how Google evolves the Pixel, and how they take on the big competitive 2017 releases, such as the Samsung S8, and whatever name Apple gives its next iPhone," Guenveur said.

The full text of Lauren Guenveur's recent blog post can be found here:

Global Market Data Summary

Kantar Worldpanel Comtech also reported today that in the fourth quarter of 2016, iOS continued year-on-year growth across all tracked regions except Urban China. Android gained in most markets, except the US, Great Britain, and Australia. In the US, iOS accounted for 44.4% of smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016, up from 39.1% in the same period of 2015. Android took 54.4% of sales, down 4.7 percentage points from 4Q 2015.

"Although Android still has a larger ecosystem, Apple was the top brand in the US and Great Britain for the final quarter of 2016," Lauren Guenveur said. "In EU5, Samsung was first, with Huawei second. In Urban China, Apple was not able to recapture first place, as Huawei continued to hold that spot."

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were the top sellers for the holiday period, netting their highest share since their release in mid-September, and representing 28% of smartphones sold in the fourth quarter. Samsung's decision not to announce the Galaxy S8 at Mobile World Congress 2017 is not expected to have a large impact on sales, as rumors circulate that the launch will be close to the traditional April date that customers have come to anticipate.

Smartphone sales were down overall in the last quarter of 2016 compared to the final quarter of 2015, the Kantar report said, adding that as smartphones become commodities, there are fewer compelling reasons to frequently buy a new one even when promotions are plentiful.

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