Smartphone shipments return to growth after early 2016 decline

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During the second quarter of 2016, smartphone shipments saw a modest return to growth after a first quarter which saw the first ever year-over-year decline in worldwide smartphone sales, according to research firm Canalys. But sequentially, shipments didn’t improve, and historical data reveals that the year-ago quarter was also relatively disappointing, all of which points to this return to growth being a tenuous one overall.

Canalys has Samsung first in overall smartphone shipments, with about 80 million in total. The firm ascribes its leadership in the market to strong Galaxy S7 sales, which is a common refrain among industry watchers, but also to bundling of the Samsung Gear VR headset. Samsung made its virtual reality accessory free with Galaxy S7 pre-orders at launch, and other bundle offers followed periodically post-launch. The firm believes Samsung’s embrace of mobile VR in partnership with Oculus helped “boost flagship handset sales.”

Apple followed Samsung with around 40 million iPhone shipped during the quarter, and the firm says that the iPhone SE hasn’t gained as much purchase in Apple’s key target markets as the company would’ve liked, including China and India, owing to a price in those markets that is still high relative to the competitive field. Apple, during its earnings call, said the iPhone SE is “doing exactly what’s intended,” however.

Huawei rounded out the top three among smartphone manufacturers, increasing total shipments to 31 million, but that’s still off-pace from its stated shipment goal of 140 million total units for the year, Canalys notes. The Chinese OEM will need to grow its U.S. presence to meet its target, according to the firm.

A return to growth is a good sign for the overall health of the global smartphone market, but it still seems like Gartner is right in predicting that overall, we’re seeing a big slowdown of the early fervor in the category for 2016. We’ve seen it before: the PC market flattened out and remains flat, but its stagnation was offset by the advent of smartphones. If smartphone sales are indeed finding their plateau, we haven’t yet seen their obvious successor in global growth.