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Smartphone sales down for fourth straight quarter

A report by research firm IDC showed 355 million handsets delivered in the third quarter, a year-on-year decline of 6%.

FILE: Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON - Global smartphone sales fell for a fourth consecutive quarter in the period through September, suggesting a challenging market for device makers awaiting catalysts to spark sales, researchers said.

A report by research firm IDC late Thursday showed 355 million handsets delivered in the third quarter, a year-on-year decline of 6%.

"IDC maintains its view that the market will return to growth in 2019, but at this stage it is too early to tell what that growth will look like," the report said.

A separate survey by strategy Analytics showed an eight percent drop in sales to 360 million units.

"The global smartphone market has now declined for four consecutive quarters and is effectively in a recession," said Strategy Analytics director Linda Sui.

"The smartphone industry is struggling to come to terms with heavily diminished carrier subsidies, longer replacement rates, inventory buildup in several regions, and a lack of exciting hardware design innovation."

According to Strategy Analytics, Apple's iPhone sales of 46.9 million units suggested the California giant is focusing on price increases, capping its overall volume growth.

Samsung remained the top vendor with just over 20% of sales, according to both surveys.

Chinese-based Huawei held second place with over 14% and Apple remained third with roughly 13%.

The fourth and fifth largest, respectively, were Chinese device makers Xiaomi and Oppo.

The researchers said a slowdown in China is a major factor in the slump in global sales, while noting that the market could pick up next year as makers introduce new devices compatible with superfast 5G, or fifth-generation wireless networks.

"China's domestic market continues to be challenged as overall consumer spending around smartphones has been down," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC.

"Despite this, we believe this market will begin to recover in 2019 and beyond, driven in the short term by a large, built up refresh cycle across all segments, and in the outer years of the forecast supported by 5G migration."

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