Samsung Can Mock Apple All It Wants, but the iPhone Is Officially Outselling It

Golden sales for a golden phone.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Over the weekend at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Samsung unveiled two new smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge. Samsung’s announcement came with a sleek product video, but also with several jabs at Apple. The company reportedly poked fun at Apple’s “Bendgate” scandal and aspects of the iPhone 6 Plus’ camera. Samsung also rolled out the slogan “design with a purpose”—presumably a dig at what it sees as frivolous aesthetic choices by Apple.

Well, Samsung can mock Apple all its wants, but the numbers tell a different story. In the latest quarter, Apple overtook Samsung as the world’s top smartphone seller for the first time since 2011.

Technology research firm Gartner said Tuesday that Apple sold 74.8 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2014—narrowly beating out Samsung’s 73 million units. That gave Apple the biggest share of the global smartphone market at 20.4 percent, followed by Samsung at 19.9 percent. The third-place seller, Lenovo, isn’t even close, with a 6.6 percent market share on 24.3 million units sold.

For the year, Samsung’s numbers still top Apple’s. Samsung sold 307.6 million smartphones in 2014 compared with Apple’s 191.4 million. Still, the iPhone has been on a tear lately. The fourth quarter was Apple’s best ever—not only shattering records for iPhone sales but also for quarterly revenue and net profit. For the first time, the iPhone also became the best-seller in China—the world’s largest smartphone market—according to an estimate from research firm Canalys. Over the seven previous quarters, Apple had never ranked higher than the No. 4 spot.

Interestingly, both Apple and Samsung ended up losing market share overall in 2014 from the previous year as smaller manufacturers—such as Lenovo and Huawei—gained ground. But if we’re just comparing Apple to Samsung, the gap is shrinking. In 2013, Samsung had a roughly 15 percentage-point lead on Apple for market share. In 2014, that fell to 9 percentage points. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen in 2015. But for now, Samsung should realize that jokes alone aren’t going to cut it.