Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Becomes No. 1 Smartphone Seller in Q4

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The top Chinese vendors -Huawei, Oppo and BBK- accounted for 21.3 percent of the smartphones sold in the quarter, an increase of 7.3 percentage points from the year before.

That pattern showed up last year too: Although it dominated the fourth quarter, Apple was a distant second over the full year, with market share of just 14.4 percent over the year, far behind Samsung's 20.5 percent, and the situation was similar the previous year.

Overall smartphone sales were up 7% in the quarter compared to 2015 with a total of 432 million units sold.

"Huawei introduced Mate 9 during the quarter - within a month of Samsung discontinuing the Galaxy Note 7 - which was good timing to position it as an alternative", Gupta said.

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Samsung also had to fiercely compete with Huawei, Oppo, BBK and Gionee which all witnessed growth in their sales in this quarter.

According to Gartner, an IT research company, more than 430 million devices were sold in the fourth quarter, helping to push 2016's total sales to almost 1.5 billion.

Gupta continued that Apple benefited from strong sales of its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models as well as a "weakened demand" for Samsung phones across several regions like North America and Western Europe.

It took Apple eight quarters to beat Samsung and regain the No. 1 global smartphone vendor ranking, according to Gartner. During this period they sold around 77 million iPhone, which was a rise from 71.5 million the year before.

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Riding on the success of iPhone 7 and Apple Watch, the Cupertino-based company recently announced an all-time record revenue of $78.4 billion for the first quarter of 2017 that ended on December 31. According to Gartner, Huawei's new premium smartphones have helped it reduce the gap with Samsung.

Oppo maintained its number one position in China, aided by high-performance, front facing cameras and fast charging smartphones.

Gupta adds that "Samsung needs to successfully launch the next Galaxy flagship phone in order to continue the momentum Galaxy S7 generated, and win back lost customers by launching a new large screen and stylus-equipped smartphone".

Also noteworthy was Blackberry, whose market share among operating systems fell to 0 percent in the quarter, from 0.2 percent the year before.

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