New data shows that smartphone shipments in North America have fallen to a five-year low, plummeting 18 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2019. According to a report from Canalys, shipments plunged from 44.4 million to 36.4 million, with some of the issues caused by “a lackluster performance by Apple, and the absence of ZTE.”
Apple is still the top dog in the category, however. Though the tech giant suffered a decline of 19 percent, it shipped more than 4.5 million iPhone XR devices in Q1 2019, and maintained 40 percent of the North American market. Samsung shipped more than 2 million each of the Galaxy S10+ and S10e models. The company narrowed Apple's lead, shipping 29 percent of North America's smartphones, compared to 23 percent in the first quarter of 2018.
"Samsung brought real differentiation to its Galaxy S10 devices," Canalys Research Analyst Vincent Thielke said in the press release. "Its triple camera, ultra-wide-angle lens, hole-punch display and reverse wireless charging all raised consumer interest. While these technologies are not new, Samsung is among the first to bring them to the U.S. in a mass-market smartphone, and the appeal of such new features will be important for other launches this year. Samsung also benefitted from carrier promotions in Q1, which used the Galaxy S10e as an incentive. But it will come under pressure later in 2019, as other vendors, such as OnePlus, follow suit with new features, while Google starts expanding into additional channels and price bands, and ZTE attempts to reestablish its footprint at the low end."
For its part, Apple was helped by carrier and retail discounts on older iPhone models, as well as trade-in promotions.
"Apple's fall in Q1 followed particularly high shipments of flagship iPhones in the previous quarter," said Thielke. "But there was a disconnect between channel orders and consumer demand, which then caused early shipments in Q1 to be challenging for Apple. But moving into March, we did see an uptick in iPhone XR shipments, an early sign that these challenges may be starting to ease at home."
He added that, if Apple wants to see its shipments improve next year, it will have to "emphasize radical new features that are most likely to impress consumers."