TOKYO • While last year started off with expectations of Huawei Technologies challenging Samsung Electronics for the title of world's most prolific smartphone vendor, it is the more familiar foe of Apple that is now threatening the South Korean titan's throne.
Industry trackers yesterday released estimates that show the iPhone maker close to matching or surpassing its South Korean rival in shipments during the pivotal holiday quarter.
Strategy Analytics put Apple's iPhone shipments for the fourth quarter at 70.7 million, slightly ahead of Samsung's 68.8 million.
Canalys gauged the United States company had moved 78 million, surpassing the Asian brand's 71 million.
And researchers at IHS Markit have the positions flipped - with Samsung at 70.7 million and Apple at 67.7 million.
Research firms are forced to estimate because Apple stopped providing its own iPhone figures a year ago, while Samsung gives a total number that includes smartphones and feature phones.
The consensus is that there is essentially no longer any daylight between the two dominant brands in mobile phones.
All three market-tracking firms estimate Huawei shipped 56 million units in the quarter, a respectable figure in the light of the US sanctions the firm has been under.
Apple this week reported record fourth-quarter revenue and profit. The iPhone was once again its crown jewel, bolstered by strong growth in the company's wearables and services groups.
Samsung reported improved operating profit from its mobile business, but it was stung by a prolonged slump in memory chips, historically its most profitable business.