ZTE & Blu Were The Fastest Growing Smartphone Brands In USA In Q3 2015

ZTE Smartphone volumes grew 45% Y/Y capturing 8% share. TCL-Alcatel was the fastest growing overall mobile phone brand up 123% Y/Y. LG recorded its highest ever smartphone market share 15%

According to the latest research from Counterpoint Research’s Market Monitor service for Q3 2015 (July-Sept) the US smartphones market grew a healthy 9% Y/Y, though slightly slower than the Q2 2015 uptick. The majority of growth was driven by challenger brands such as ZTE, LG, Blu, Asus and other smaller players, all registering double digit volume growth.

ZTE is the fastest growing major smartphone OEM as its volumes grew 45% YoY, capturing an 8% share and the fourth spot, behind LG. The Chinese vendor had particular success within AT&T and Sprint channels.  This may pave the way for other Chinese OEMs to both increase volumes and climb to higher price points. Xiaomi’s recent licensing agreement with Qualcomm may help with sell-in attempts with US carriers.

LG recorded its highest ever market share in smartphones to 15% from 9% some eight quarters ago. The demand for LG’s smartphones have increased across all carriers cementing its position in important US market.

With the rise of equipment installment plans (EIP) and leasing programs, we are seeing dramatic shifts in how consumers are perceiving the unbundled device costs aided by carriers now welcoming Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) type consumers. This is an important trend that is driving the demand for open, SIM-free, or unlocked devices. As a result we are seeing the rise of players such as Blu, Asus and other microvendors such as OnePlus and Oppo.

In the overall mobile phones market, Alcatel One Touch more than doubled its volumes and share Y/Y as it continued to fill the gaps left by Samsung, LG and others’ shift away from feature phones. Alcatel was the fifth largest mobile phone brand during the quarter. However, Alcatel needs to ramp up its smartphone efforts with multiple design wins in the upcoming quarter to surpass ZTE as the fourth largest brand overall.

Apple remains the top selling vendor in all four of the top tier US carriers.  Apple, and to a lesser extent, other smartphone flagships, have benefited from equipment installment plans and leasing programs. Apple has seen larger year-over-year growth in T-Mobile & Sprint—carriers who have been very aggressive with EIP & leasing programs.  These programs may help increase upgrade rates which have been trending lower in recent quarters.

Samsung’s performance remains strong at Verizon & T-Mobile where the Galaxy S6 series has been a good but not exceptional performer. A lot hinges on Samsung’s Note 5 and broadening of its mid-tier portfolio with the Galaxy A & J series, to win back some share from Apple, ZTE, LG and Alcatel.

T-Mobile continues to sell more smartphones than AT&T or Sprint and is the second largest smartphone channel, thanks to its aggressive offerings and pricing under its “Uncarrier” initiatives. T-Mobile is now one of the key channels for new brands looking to enter the US market through a carrier partnership route.

3Q15 USA SP Shipments by US Carriers

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The Market Monitor research is based on sell-in (shipments) estimates based on vendor’s quarterly results, vendor-polling triangulated with sell-through (sales), supply chain checks and secondary research.