Apple retakes smartphone top spot

Samsung could be experiencing a serious case of brand fatigue and that has allowed its rival Apple to regain top spot in the smartphone shipment market.

And hot on the heels of both giants is Chinese phone maker Xiaomi, which is now ranked third, on the back of its budget phones.

This is according to latest data released by research company IDC, which tracks shipments of smartphones to Singapore.

The South Korean giant's share of total shipments almost halved, dropping 25 percentage points to 30 per cent between April and June. Its share of shipments was 55 per cent in the same period last year.

This has allowed Apple to claim top spot in Singapore, doubling from 17 per cent to 34 per cent in the same period, said IDC.

In all, 1.05 million smartphones were shipped here in the second quarter this year, up from 806,000 the previous year.

But while Samsung experienced falling shipments, the company noted that surveys of retail sales showed that the company remains the market leader.

Data from research firm GfK showed that Samsung's share of smartphone sales here through non-telco retailers stood at 69 per cent in the second quarter.

Industry sources also said that Samsung's smartphone sales through all three telcos - SingTel, StarHub and M1 - followed GfK's data closely.

IDC's shipment figures also do not reflect the actual number of phones sold after they are shipped here as some of the imports here could be re-exported to other countries, complicating the picture.

Still, while Samsung remains popular, industry analysts said its products may be losing some of the shine.

"When the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone was launched last year, there was still a lot of hype about the latest Samsung flagship models. But consumer reaction to this year's Galaxy S5 flagship phone is a little bit more muted," said Kiranjeet Kaur, an IDC Asia-Pacific senior market analyst.

Part of the reason is just consumer weariness, said Ms Kaur, adding that it was the same problem that Apple had previously faced.

Users might think some new phones do not offer significant enough upgrades over their existing handsets and so they hold back on purchases, she added.

IT industry players said the jump in Apple numbers could be due partly to more iPhones being shipped here before they are exported. There could be rising demand for older iPhones as some consumers may prefer smaller screens over the new, rumoured larger iPhone.

At the same time, low-cost Chinese brands are quickly gaining market share and eating into Samsung's pie.

Mykola Golovko, consumer electronics senior analyst at Euromonitor International, said that competition from Chinese brands like Xiaomi and Huawei is "quickly changing the competitive landscape for Android smartphones in many developed countries, including Singapore".

Xiaomi captured between 10 and 20 per cent of smartphone shipments to Singapore, putting it at No. 3 in the second quarter, based on IDC data.

For consumers like National University of Singapore law student Aeki Teo, 23, the choice is clear.

He bought Xiaomi's latest Redmi Note released here last month and believes Xiaomi offers more value for money than the latest Samsung phones.

The 5.5-inch Redmi Note goes for $199 and has an eight-core 1.7GHz processor. The 5.1-inch Galaxy S5 goes for $1,068 with a quad-core 2.5GHz processor.

"Like other well-known phone providers, Xiaomi has a service centre here. This is unlike cheap Chinese phones of the past. That's a huge draw factor," Mr Teo added.

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