samsung vs apple
A sales assistant uses her mobile phone next to the company logos of Apple and Samsung at a store in Hefei, Anhui province September 10, 2014 Reuters

Smartphone vendors collectively sold a total of 403.5 million units during the fourth quarter of 2017, according to a preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC). Despite Apple Inc reigning in the closing quarter, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd remains the top smartphone vendor of the year.

In IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the South Korean tech giant accounted for 74.1 million units in Q4, down by 4.4 per cent compared to the 77.5 million units from 2016. Samsung capped off the year with 317.3 million shipments, up by 1.9 per cent from the 311.4 million shipments in 2016.

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Apple, on the other hand, beat out Samsung in the closing quarter, selling 77.3 million units, a modest year-over-year decline of 1.3 per cent from the preceding quarter. Despite Apple's slower than expected demand for the expensive iPhone X handset, it finished second overall in 2017, shipping 215.8 million units, up by 0.2 per cent from the 215.4 million units sold in 2016.

Both Samsung and Apple had released three high-end smartphones in 2017: the Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy S9 Plus, and Galaxy S9 by Samsung; the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone 8 by Apple. IDC's Mobile Phones research manager Anthony Scarsella points out that the trending feature in 2017, which is the bezel-less display, "proved to be more of a luxury than a necessity" for some.

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"The latest flock of posh flagships may have had consumers hitting the pause button in the holiday quarter. With ultra-high-end flagships all the rage in 2017, many of these new bezel-less wonders proved to be more of a luxury than a necessity among upgraders," says Scarsella in a statement, adding that higher price points outweighed the new and advanced smartphone features.

Rounding out the top five are Chinese brands Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo, respectively. Huawei, the biggest smartphone brand in China, shipped 153.1 million units in 2017, down by 9.9 per cent from the 139.3 million in 2016. Xiaomi managed to double its share to 7 per cent from 3.3 per cent in the final quarter, while Oppo was shoved to the fifth spot despite 12 per cent growth for the full year, amounting to 118.8 million shipments.

Overall, the smartphone market sold over 1.472 billion units in 2017, declining less than 1 per cent from the 1.473 billion units shipped in 2016.