Xiaomi overtakes Samsung in world's hottest smartphone market

Watch smartphones dropped and bent for testing
Watch smartphones dropped and bent for testing

Samsung, the world's biggest smartphone company, has been knocked off the top spot in India's red-hot market.

China's Xiaomi is now the top seller, according to new industry figures released Wednesday.

Xiaomi accounted for 25% of Indian smartphone sales in the last quarter of 2017, compared to 23% for Samsung (SSNLF), according to consultancy Counterpoint Research. Canalys, another research firm, estimated the Chinese firm's share at 27%, compared to Samsung's 25%.

The South Korean company has dominated India's smartphone market for the last six years, but Xiaomi has been gaining ground steadily since it entered the country in 2014. The two companies accounted for more than 40% of the 132 million smartphones sold in India last year.

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India is the world's second-largest smartphone market, bigger than the U.S. and second only to China. It's also the fastest growing major market, with around 900 million Indians yet to experience the internet for the first time -- something many will do on mobile devices.

Analysts say Xiaomi's rise is mainly because it offers low-cost models, a huge draw in a country where many people still earn less than $2,000 a year.

"Samsung's loss comes from its inability to transform its low-cost product portfolio," said Rushabh Doshi, an analyst at Canalys. "It has been unable to win over cost-conscious consumers."

Xiaomi has been chipping away at the market for phones that cost less than $240, he added.

Explosive growth

Tarun Pathak, an associate director at Counterpoint Research, said Xiaomi's sales grew a whopping 259% in India in 2017. It now boasts three of the country's five most popular smartphones.

Xiaomi is one of several Chinese brands that have made a big splash in India. Three others -- Lenovo, Vivo and Oppo -- make up the top five, with each of them accounting for an estimated 6% of the market.

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Samsung still took top spot in India for 2017 as a whole, however, with 24% of sales compared to Xiaomi's 19%.

Doshi, of Canalys, says the world's biggest smartphone maker is unlikely to go down without a fight.

"The power struggle between Xiaomi and Samsung will continue well into 2018," he said.

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