Euro shoppers popping more and more premium phones in the basket

Apple ousts Samsung as the people's choice in Q4, and the words 'refresh' and 'cycle' are whispered for 2024

Apple topped the European smartphone marketplace in Q4 as local shoppers opted to buy premium priced handsets.

Total shipments in the region actually declined three percent year-on-year to 37.8 million units in calendar Q4 of 2023 but after seven quarters out of the top spot, Apple rebounded on the back of one percent growth to 12.4 million iPhones.

“High-end smartphones took a record share of the European market in Q4 of 2023. Almost 40 percent of smartphone shipments were priced at $800 or higher,” said Canalys analyst Runar Bjørhovde.

“The dominance of the high end was mainly fueled by strong iPhone 15 Pro demand alongside consistent Galaxy S-series volumes and a growing Google Pixel,” he added.

Apple recently fought its way to the summit of the global phone market too – for the first time ever.

Canalys thinks the phone industry is on the cusp of a refresh cycle despite some users sweating their phones for longer, choosing to keep cash for other things in the absence of killer reasons to upgrade the hardware. This trend is causing shortages of phones in the secondhand or remanufactured sectors.

Tim Cook, Apple's boss, was asked on a conference call earlier this month about the concerns around replacement cycles lengthening, and he responded by saying the latest iPhone is outselling the previous generation.

“We also importantly set an all-time record worldwide for iPhone upgraders,” he said. On the replacement cycle, he said “it's very difficult to measure the replacement cycle at any given point.”

Samsung settled for second spot after it declined 12 percent year-on-year in Q4 to 10.8 million phones, followed by Xiaomi, which shrank 10 percent to six million phones, then Motorola, which grew 73 percent to two million, and after that former Huawei subsidiary Honor, which grew 116 percent to 1.1 million.

The European phone market has struggled in recent years with shipments dropping eight percent in 2023 to 129.8 million units, but things may finally be on the turn.

“In 2024, single-digit growth will return to the European smartphone market, driven by an impending refresh cycle of devices that were bought during the pandemic,” said Bjørhovde. “To capitalize on this opportunity and stand out, vendors must apply a holistic approach emphasizing innovation, reliability, backend logistics, regulatory compliance, and a clear brand message.”

On-device AI was not mentioned as a particular factor in driving sales this year. ®

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