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Worldwide smartphone shipments experienced their most drastic quarterly decrease on record over the holiday period, according to IDC, and Apple felt the effects of cooling consumer demand due to the global economic downturn.
The research firm estimates that Apple shipped 72.3 million iPhones in the December quarter, a decrease year-on-year from 85 million units, representing a 14.9% drop in shipments compared to the same quarter a year ago.
Other major smartphone brands experienced similar double-digit setbacks. Samsung's shipments fell by 15.6% year-on-year, and Chinese mobile makers OPPO and Vivo experienced almost equivalent decreases, with Xiaomi enduring the most dramatic quarter with a 26.3% drop in shipments.
Generally, global smartphone shipments declined 18.3% in the December quarter compared to a year earlier, to a little over 300 million units. This drop marks the biggest-ever decrease in a single quarter and contributed to a steep 11.3% reduction for the year.
"We have never seen shipments in the holiday quarter come in lower," Nabila Popal, research director at IDC, said in a press release. "Nevertheless, weakened demand and high inventory caused vendors to significantly cut back on shipments."
Apart from inflation and economic uncertainties, lockdowns in China were another factor that affected the industry, including Apple's iPhone shipments, she said. "Heavy sales and promotions during the quarter helped clear existing inventory rather than generate shipment growth."
Riots erupted in late November at the world's largest iPhone factory in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, where Foxconn workers were displeased with Covid restrictions and unpaid bonuses. iPhone production at the factory in Zhengzhou was said to have been significantly impacted by the protests, leading to extensive shipping delays over the holiday period.
According to IDC, 2022 ended with global smartphone shipments of 1.21 billion units, which represents the lowest annual shipment total since 2013 due to seriously dampened consumer demand, inflation, and economic uncertainties.
In spite of the difficult holiday period, Apple's market share remained steady, and the company kept its position as the top smartphone maker for the December quarter with 24.1% market share, up 1% from a year ago. For the year, Apple achieved 18.8% market share compared to 17.3% the previous year, coming second only to Samsung, which took 21.6% market share in 2022 compared to 20% over 2021, according to IDC estimates.