IDC Smartphone Shipments 2016: Q1 slowest ever, Apple falls, Huawei rises

IDC says this quarter is the smallest year-over-year growth in smartphone shipments since smartphones were invented. This doesn't mean that shipments are going down – not exactly, anyway. Vendors shipped 334.9 million smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16). This is slightly more than what they shipped this same time one year ago – 334.3 million units. Less than a million unit shipments difference year-over-year. That is, indeed, unprecedented. It would seem that everyone already has a smartphone. Everyone that would have bought one in the last three months otherwise, anyway.

The top 5 smartphone vendors in the world for this most recent quarter, as arranged by smartphone shipments, include Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and vivo. What are those last two brands doing there, you might ask? That's a very good question.

Oppo and vivo are China-based smartphone manufacturers. How did these two brands that only a smartphone enthusiast would know about become worldwide smartphone shipment leaders?

By pushing out Lenovo and Xiaomi.

"Along China's maturing smartphone adoption curve, the companies most aligned with growth are those with products serving increasingly sophisticated consumers," said Melissa Chau, senior research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

"Lenovo benefited with ASPs below US$150 in 2013, and Xiaomi picked up the mantle with ASPs below US$200 in 2014 and 2015. Now Huawei, OPPO, and vivo, which play mainly in the sub-US$250 range, are positioned for a strong 2016. These new vendors would be well-advised not to rest on their laurels though, as this dynamic smartphone landscape has shown to even cult brands like Xiaomi that customer loyalty is difficult to consistently maintain."

Samsung's shipments shipment volume went down by 0.6% year-over-year, while the company maintained their overall market share (24.6% last year at this time, 24.5% this most recent quarter). Apple, meanwhile, had shipments fall by 16.3% – that's the biggest drop on the market inside the top five players. Apple's market share also fell worldwide from 18.3% to 15.3% year-over-year.

While OPPO and vivo will certainly be names to watch out for in the future of this near-saturated world market, it's Huawei that's reaching closest to the sun. Huawei pushed their smartphone shipments up to more than half of Apple's this most recent quarter – and compared to what they had this quarter last year, they're up a whopping 58.4% themselves.

Watch the celebrities play with their phones. Keep an eye on the Huawei P9 Plus as well – it's coming for you, Gene!