Smartphone Shipments Ballooned To 1.2 Billion In 2014, Struggling Samsung Retains Top Spot

While we've seen data to suggest that tablet growth is slowing way down, the same can't be said for smartphones. Just the opposite, market research firm TrendForce pegs the number of global smartphone shipments in 2014 at 1.167 billion units, representing a 25.9 percent year-on-year growth rate. As expected, Samsung led the pack, though its share of the market is being cut into by Chinese brands.

Trend Force called it a "difficult year for Samsung," which saw its share of the worldwide smartphone market drop to 28 percent in 2014 compared with 32.5 percent in the previous year. In addition to competing with increasingly popular Chinese brands, Samsung's large-size Galaxy Note series faced challenges from Apple's iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple and Samsung
Image Source: Flickr (Kārlis Dambrāns)

Meanwhile, Apple stood relatively still in second place, shipping 191.3 million units for a 16.4 percent share of the market, down slightly from 16.6 percent year-over-year. However, it actually had a high annual growth rate of 24.5 percent in terms of shipments.

Nevertheless, it was the rise of Chinese brands that caught the attention of TrendForce, which collectively had an "impressive year... as they gained more share of the global market." More specifically, the Chinese brands combined to ship 453.4 million units, encompassing nearly 40 percent of the global smartphone market.

One company in particular to keep an eye on is Lenovo, the world's top PC supplier. Lenovo completed its acquisition of Motorola from Google in the fourth quarter of 2014, and with the merger finalized, the company's total smartphone shipments exceeded 90 million units with a growth rate above 100 percent. It ranked first among Chinese vendors and third worldwide with a 7.9 percent share of the market.