Apple iPhone surges to first-place tie with Samsung smartphones

Apple surged to a tie for the world's biggest smartphone vendor for the first time since 2011 as booming sales of iPhones with larger screens helped gain ground on Samsung Electronics. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Apple surged to a tie for the world's biggest smartphone vendor for the first time since 2011 as booming sales of iPhones with larger screens helped gain ground on Samsung Electronics. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE (Bloomberg) - Apple surged to a tie for the world's biggest smartphone vendor for the first time since 2011 as booming sales of iPhones with larger screens helped gain ground on Samsung Electronics.

Both companies shipped 74.5 million smartphones in the fourth quarter for 19.6 per cent market share each, Strategy Analytics Inc. said on Thursday. Lenovo Group was third with a market share of 6.5 per cent after its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Xiaomi Corp. fell to sixth place from third in the previous quarter.

Apple's move into larger screens hit Samsung in an area it pioneered as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were popular in markets including China, where consumers want a bigger device to perform the role of a phone and tablet computer. The maker of Galaxy devices saw its market share plunge 10 percentage points as Chinese vendors such as Lenovo and Huawei Technologies captured more buyers.

Apple this week posted a 38 per cent surge in net income for the December quarter, while profit at Samsung slumped 27 per cent.

Global smartphone shipments in the quarter rose 31 percent to 380.1 million units, with the total for 2014 reaching a record 1.3 billion, Strategy Analytics said. Apple hasn't been the biggest vendor globally since the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Strategy Analytics.

"Lenovo-Motorola and Apple have rapidly upped their game in China and worldwide and they are starting to chip away at Xiaomi," said Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics. "The 'golden age' of easy growth for Xiaomi is coming to an end."