The smartphone upgrade cycle - visualized

In recent weeks we've seen both Apple and Samsung revise their revenue forecasts, leading to speculation on the death of smartphone sales, driven by "peak smartphone" and upgrade fatigue.

Despite the doom and gloom, sales of iPhones are still increasing in countries where they're favoured over Android rivals. While Tim Cook blamed poor sales in China, the truth is, Apple have a very low presence in many areas, such as India and Indonesia - the second and fourth most populated nations on Earth.

Earlier this month we asked why iPhone sales were underperforming, and the answer was - they aren't. They're just not performing where Android has a lead.

Samsung - who had their most profitable quarter ever in Q3 2018 - still expect sales of $52.5 billion in for Q4, 11% down on previous estimates.

While such figures aren't likely to create much sympathy in consumers, it's good to look at the data behind the headlines, which is exactly what we've done. We tracked usage of the most popular devices from Apple and Samsung across the four quarters of 2018 to see if people still upgrade to the newer, more expensive models, and whether either manufacturer is likely to suffer in 2019.

The smartphone upgrade cycle in the US

With 63.08% market share in the US, Apple devices dominate, and increased this lead by almost 6% over 2018.

As expected, use of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X increased steadily over the year, while the 6 and 7 both lost some ground due to the predictable upgrade cycle. As prices come down, and smartphones improve, this is inevitable.

The iPhone X has overtaken the 8, and now enjoys 0.5% more market share. In 2019, we expect to see the XS/Max and XR slowly but surely eat into the 6 and 7's share. However, given the popularity and performance of the latter, we could see the iPhone 7 remain as the USA's most popular smartphone for another year.

Across the OS divide, the Samsung Galaxy S9 almost reached 2% share from a very low starting position.

A definite negative for Samsung, however, is that the S6, S7 and S8 all lost share over the year, no doubt fuelled by the significant increase in overall iOS usage.

 

The UK

In our most recent iOS v Android market share analysis, the UK leaned 56.59% towards iOS, with Apple devices gaining an additional 4.69% share over 2018.

What we see below is the share of UK web traffic generated by the iPhone 6, 7, 8 and X over each quarter. We can see a slight decline in iPhone 6 usage, but still a healthy 6.02% in Q4.

What's interesting is the adoption of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, with both rising steadily from around 2% share each at the start of the year to 5.2% and 4.18% by year end. September saw the release of the iPhone XS and XS Max, and both have gained some traction, but we're unlikely to see them impact the overall numbers until the first few months of 2019.

A testament to Apple's product support is the performance of the iPhone 7, easily the most popular phone worldwide in 2018. A slight 0.30% dip in usage across Q3/Q4 may herald the start of its decline, but for a device released in 2016 to still command such share is a fine thing, and possibly a contributing factor to Apple's recent revenue revisions.

On the Samsung side, what we see in the UK isn't hugely different to the iPhone charts. The newer, higher-spec models increase in usage, with the S6 and S7 both losing significant share.

In fact, the Galaxy S9 enjoyed similar uplift to the iPhone X, positive signs for the South Korean manufacturer. The S8 is still the most popular Samsung device in the UK, with 4.89% market share. A slight loss from Q3 could be a sign of the S9's performance, or a wider trend of some Android users switching sides to iOS.

 

Canada

Similar to the US in terms of iOS/Android split, Apple devices increased in popularity over 2018, gaining an extra 7.71% market share.

As a result, we can see strong gains for the iPhone 8 and X, with the iPhone 7 still remaining strong as the most popular smartphone in Canada.

The iPhone 6 lost a little over 2% during 2018, but still enjoys a healthy 7.41% share.

With just under 40% market share, Android devices are still popular in Canada, with the Samsung Galaxy series easily the most common.

As we see elsewhere, the Galaxy S8 and S9 made steady gains throughout the year, while the S6 dropped below 2% share. The S7 will continue to decrease over the coming months too.

 

Australia

Departing from the norm, iOS didn't have a great 2018, losing 4% market share to Android in Australia.

Despite this slight dent, 8 of the top 10 most popular smartphones in Australia are iPhones, and the below chart shows why.

The iPhone 8 and X both doubled their market share over the year, with the 7 staying steady around 8-9%. The iPhone 6 only lost around 2%.

As we'd expect, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 lost some share over the year in Australia, with the 9 slowly increasing its presence. The Galaxy S8 appears to have slipped after a positive first half.

To explain why Android has a positive year despite the modest improvements for Samsung, we can see a huge variety of Android smartphones making small increases. These manufacturers include Huawei, Motorola, Oppo and Google, all combining to steal some share from iOS.

 

Japan

Japan is iPhone territory, with the Sony Xperia XZ1 the most popular Android handset - with a tiny 0.77% market share. So, we've only looked at the Apple here.

The iPhone 7 is still well in the lead, with over 15% market share. The iPhone 8 has surged ahead of the iPhone X, which stalled somewhat in Q4.

 

Spain

We don't often feature Spain in our main reports, but Android enjoys 71.51% of the OS share, despite the top seven most popular smartphones in Q4 2018 being iOS.

There were no huge changes throughout the year for iPhone usage, although the 7 saw a small increase. The steady rise of the 8 and X are as expected. It'll be interesting to see how Apple fares in 2019.

Android Galaxy devices make up four of the top twenty most popular smartphones in Spain, but their overall share remains a lot lower than in other European countries. Huawei and Xiaomi have a decent presence here, as well as native manufacturer BQ.

Still, those who choose a Samsung device do seem to upgrade to another Samsung device - although most appear to skip a release, confirming wider suggestions of an average two-year upgrade cycle.

 

Germany

With just over a third of the mobile OS share in Germany, iOS has an uphill battle if it aims to catch up to Android in the EU's largest country.

That said, six of the top ten most popular smartphones in Q4 were iPhones, with the 7 leading the way on 6.94%.

We can see the 8 and X making gains over the year, while the iPhone 6 begins its descent.

There's an almost perfect trajectory for the Samsung Galaxy S series in Germany, with losses in share for the S6 and S7 mirroring the gains for the S8 and S9.

As in Spain, we see a fair chunk of Huawei devices around 0.5% share, but Samsung leads the way, and from the below chart it seems their customers won't be jumping ship any time soon.

 

France

There's a relatively even OS split in France, with Android enjoying 52.29% share, iOS 45.43%.

Despite this, iPhones make up 8 of the top 10 in the list of most popular smartphones in France for Q4 2018.

The iPhone 7 saw continued growth throughout the year, while the 6 showed signs of an inevitable decline, but still ended on a decent 6.48% - and still the third most popular phone overall.

The iPhone 8 sits just ahead of the X, 5th and 6th on the overall list, having both had a positive 2018.

As you might expect, the Galaxy S8 and S9 are on the way to replacing the S6 and S7 as France's most popular Android phones.

Whether the S9 follows the S8 depends on prices, of course, but also Samsung's planned launch of their next iteration (presumably, the S10) at an event on February 20th, the week before the Mobile World Congress.

Will an in-screen fingerprint reader, larger battery and whatever else is added be enough to entice Samsung fans to part with $800+? We shall see.

For more data on OS share, the most popular smartphones, browsers and much more, visit our Data Explorer.

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