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For the first time, Apple sold the most phones for a full year

Gadget giant Apple continues to go from strength to strength, selling the most phones globally in 2023 despite also being the most expensive.

Scott Bicheno

January 16, 2024

2 Min Read

IDC was the first analyst firm to publish numbers supporting Apple’s record-breaking year. "While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple," said IDC’s Nabila Popal.

"Not only is Apple the only player in the Top 3 to show positive growth annually, but also bags the number 1 spot annually for the first time ever. All this despite facing increased regulatory challenges and renewed competition from Huawei in China, its largest market. Apple's ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans."

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These findings support the claims made by Counterpoint earlier this month, that the premium segment is outgrowing the rest of the smartphone market. It seems people are increasingly treating their smartphones more like personal computing devices and are thus prepared to invest more on the assumption that they will keep using it for years. This is probably also a factor in the persistent trend towards declining sales volumes. Having said that, you can get a great device for under $400, so there is clearly a status symbol element at play here too.

Canalys came to a similar conclusion in numbers it published today. "Apple showed resilience over the past two years, thanks to solid ongoing demand in the high-end segment,” said Amber Liu of Canalys. “The expanded positioning of its iPhone 15 series has pointed to the future direction of Apple’s portfolio strategy to reach a broader range of consumer segments.

“But Huawei’s improving strength and looming local competition in mainland China will challenge Apple to sustain its growth trajectory in mainland China while high-end replacement demand in other major markets, such as North America and Europe, is leveling off. Apple must look to new market growth and ecosystem strength to reinvigorate its iPhone business.”  

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It should be stressed that analyst numbers are generally estimates, informed by a certain amount of market intelligence. Shipments refer to units sold into the channel, as opposed to consumer purchases, so don’t think you’re getting a definitive picture. But industry analysts are professional guessers and their numbers are usually the best on offer in the absence of hard data from the companies themselves. Nonetheless, opinion is often divided on whose guess is the most accurate.

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About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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