Samsung Winning the Phone Wars in a Shrinking Market

  • By Christopher Rogers
  • · July 22, 2016
  • ·
  • Trade data is about more than just containers – it can also be used to track the electronics industry.
  • U.S. smartphone imports fell 3.2% in May vs. 2015, vs. expectations of growth for the full year.
  • Samsung appears to be well ahead of the game, with imports from South Korea and Vietnam jumping 47%.

Smartphone imports in late spring are traditionally slow – this year buyers await new products from Apple, and Samsung’s Galaxy updates are not yet available. New devices are needed to excite the market. Market forecaster IDC expects mobile phone shipments globally to slow to 3.1% in 2016, with the U.S. growing at a low-single digit rate.

So, are phone shipments still rising, and if so who is winning?

The answer to the first question is that they are actually falling. Panjiva data for HTS code 8517.12 shows a 3.2% fall in terms of units imported to the U.S. in May, and a similar level for the year to May 30, vs. a year earlier. Volatility on a monthly basis reflects pre-holiday shipments as well as new product launches. The all-time high import of 29.48 million units coincided with the launch of the iPhone 6 in September 2014, with the previous peak being the introduction of the iPhone 5 in 2012.


20160722 Phones Totals

Source: Panjiva

When looking for winners in a weak market, Samsung appears to be ahead. Both Apple Computer and Samsung Electronics produce most of their phones outside of the U.S., alongside other major manufacturers such as LG Electronics and ZTE Corp.

The fastest growing exporter to the U.S. is Vietnam, partly reflecting the newly opened Samsung factory there. When combined with South Korea, the ‘Samsung-focussed’ South Korea and Vietnam suggests the company has exported 47.3% more phones in May (or 3.635 million units) vs. a year earlier, or a 72% rise in 2016 so far vs. a year earlier.


20160722 Phones Country

Source: Panjiva


This post was first published in the Panjiva Daily, which features global trade news and data-driven insights and is free for all Panjiva subscribers. To find out more email



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *