Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) dominated Christmas wish lists this year but both had a luckluster holiday season, according to a new study.
On Wednesday, Yahoo's Flurry Analytics looked at new phone and tablet "activations" between Dec 19 and Dec 25. Both Apple and Samsung still dominated but Apple saw a fall in share while Samsung saw a slight increase.
This year, 44 percent of activations globally were Apple devices, a decline from the 49.1 percent seen in a similar period in 2015, and 51.3 percent in 2014.
Meanwhile, 21 percent of activations were Samsung devices, a tiny rise from 19.8 percent last year.
Both figures might be surprising, firstly given Apple released two new flagship iPhones in September and Samsung went through the Note 7 scandal. It's important to note that activations are not the same as sales.
Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 and larger-screen iPhone 7 Plus in September. Reaction to the model was underwhelming but many reviewers at the time noted that there were some big under-the-hood upgrades. After the pre-order period in September, Apple said iPhone 7 Plus supplies had sold out. The popularity of the larger screen iPhone appears to be in line with Flurry's figures which showed phablet devices – those with 5 inch to 6.9 inch screens – accounted for 37 percent market share, up from 27 percent in 2015.
Apple has not released any official figures for sales over the holiday period but Chief Executive Tim Cook told CNBC on Wednesday that it has been a "great holiday" period. It's been a difficult year for the U.S. technology giant which saw its first annual revenue decline since 2001 when it reported yearly results in October. Apple has struggled in China, and perhaps part of the lackluster holiday performance could be down to this.
UBS analysts suggest that the iPhone 7 should help Apple see single-digit iPhone unit growth in its fiscal 2017 year, while growth should be double-digit in fiscal 2018. Rumors suggest Apple will be releasing a special edition iPhone 8 in 2017 to mark the device's tenth anniversary, which could drive sales.
It may also seem surprising that Samsung managed to see a rise in activations during the holiday period given that it had to recall all Note 7 devices in September after a few caught fire. The South Korean electronics giant let users exchange their faulty Note 7 phones with its flagship Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, something that has mitigated the damage to sales.
Surveys suggest that Samsung has a loyal brand following. A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll carried out between October 26 and November 9 found that 91 percent of current Samsung users would likely purchase another Samsung smartphone.
Flurry Analytics also found Chinese manufacturer Huawei was the third-most popular brand with three percent of new phone or tablet activations produced by the company. Huawei has been aggressively expanding its smartphone division, launching both high-end and mid-range phones to attract a range of consumers.
"Holding the third and fourth positions for activations are Huawei and LG; which is remarkable, as both manufacturers do not have an individual device within the top 35 devices activated. Their high rank is likely due to the fact that they have wide variety of devices and affordable options (hundreds of phablet and medium phones) for consumers to choose from," Flurry said in a blog post.
"Perhaps not so surprisingly, missing from this chart is the Google Pixel . With only two devices, the Pixel and Pixel XL, and mixed market reception, Google struggled to drum up excitement this holiday season."
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