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Apple retains world’s leading smartphone badge, but China is catching up

Who is the world’s leading smartphone brand? Apple remain at top, but the pack are chasing.

Apple has limited file-sharing on iPhones sold in mainland China
Apple has limited file-sharing on iPhones sold in mainland China - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File JUSTIN SULLIVAN
Apple has limited file-sharing on iPhones sold in mainland China - Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File JUSTIN SULLIVAN

What were the most popular smartphone brands around the world in 2023? There are different ways to acquire the data for this answer, ranging from sales figures to production units, and from data usage to downloads.

Approaching this question, the company JohnsPhones analysed real-time mobile usage data to see which smartphone brands had been used the most by people in 65 different markets and created a map visualizing the findings. This helped to unpick the most popular phone brands in the world between January and December of 2023.

Apple profit nearly doubles as lockdowns eased
Image: © AFP Roberto Pfeil

The past year saw dozens of new phones hitting the stores, including major releases from Apple and Samsung. Despite contradictory reports about the state of the global smartphone market (with some focusing on the continuing downward trend in shipments and others seeing a slow but steady recovery in sales), Chinese smartphones appear to be growing in popularity, especially in Africa, certain Asian countries, and most recently Russia.

Samsung has been the pioneer in the foldable smartphone sector
Samsung has been the pioneer in the foldable smartphone sector – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP MARIO TAMA

However, it remains that brands such as Huawei, Xiaomi, or Oppo still cannot compete with major smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung. In 2023, Apple models were the most preferred smartphones in the world. Roughly 29 percent of all smartphones used to access web pages had been manufactured by the Cupertino-based company, while 25.2 percent were Samsung models.

Apple and Samsung were followed by:

  • Xiaomi (11.5 percent),
  • Oppo (6.1 percent),
  • Vivo (5.2 percent),
  • Huawei (4 percent),
  • Realme (3.7 percent),
  • Motorola (2.2 percent).

Other smartphone brands used by at least 0.5 percent of users globally were OnePlus (1.2 percent), Tecno (1.2 percent), Infinix (1.1 percent), Google (0.9 percent), and LG (0.5 percent). The once mighty Nokia, on the other hand, only had a market share of 0.4 percent.

Huawei’s business has been hammered by US sanctions put in place by the Trump administration – © AFP

In terms of regional variations, Apple remained the top smartphone brand in major markets including the U.S., Japan, Australia, Canada, the U.K., as well as most of Western Europe. Whereas Samsung was the top smartphone brand in South Korea, its home country, but also in Poland, Mexico, Israel, Brazil, and Argentina, among others.

In India, the most populous country in the world since April of last year, the most popular smartphone brand of 2023 was the Chinese brand Xiaomi. Spain and Greece are the only markets in Europe where Xiaomi beats Apple and Samsung for being the most popular smartphone brand.

Companies such as China’s Xiaomi have developed foldable smartphones in a bid to break into the market. — © AFP

David Lee, a smartphone market analyst at JohnsPhones explains: “Despite the rise of Chinese electronics and smartphone companies, most of the world still prefers iPhones and Galaxies, which are viewed as safer, more reliable, and ultimately, of much higher quality than Chinese tech. Market leaders such as Apple keep designing cutting-edge chips, introducing innovative features and using quality materials in manufacturing. Most of all, Chinese brands may be affordable but they lack brand recognition and trust, at least in Western markets.”.

In 2024 releases like iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, and Google Pixel 8 Pro are expected.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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