Apple appears to be creeping up towards Samsung in terms of smartphone sales to end users, with the iPhone maker shipping 54.06 million units in the first quarter.
According to the latest figures by industry analyst firm Gartner, the three months ending March saw Apple grow market share of global smartphone sales from vendors to end users to 14.1 per cent, up from the same period the previous year, which saw it claim 13.7 per cent.
However, Samsung continues to maintain a clear end customer sales lead over its rivals, with the South Korean tech giant claiming 20.5 per cent of worldwide sales from vendors to end customers, a slight decrease from 20.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.
It should be noted, however, that the first quarter of 2018 saw Samsung rack up fewer total smartphone sales to end customers than it did during the same quarter the previous year, while Apple’s tally increased.
In the first quarter of 2018, Samsung sold just over 78.56 million units. The previous year, it was just under 78.78 million for the same three month period.
Apple, on the other hand, sold just over 51.99 million in the three months ending March last year. For the three months ending March this year, it clocked up just less than 54.06 million.
The changes in relative end customer smartphone sales share for the two global smartphone leaders comes as worldwide smartphone sales to end customers returns to growth, with a 1.3 per cent year-on-year increase for the quarter.
Compared to the first quarter of 2017, however, total sales of mobile phones stalled, reaching 455 million units in the first quarter of 2018.
Altogether, nearly 384 million smartphones were sold in the first quarter of 2018, representing 84 percent of total mobile phones sold, according to Gartner.
"Demand for premium and high-end smartphones continued to suffer due to marginal incremental benefits during upgrade," Gartner research director Anshul Gupta said.
"Demand for entry-level smartphones (sub-$100) and low mid-tier smartphones (sub-$150) improved due to better-quality models,” the research director said.
While Samsung and Apple continue to battle it out in the top two spots, Huawei's refreshed smartphone portfolio helped to strengthen its position as the number three global smartphone vendor.
"Achieving 18.3 percent growth in the first quarter of 2018 helped Huawei close the gap with Apple," Gupta said.
"However, its future growth increasingly depends on the vendor ramping up share in emerging Asia Pacific and resolving issues in the US market, through the development of a stronger consumer brand,” he said.