Apple, which just released its iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro on Friday, may be the most recognizable brand in smartphones, but at one point, there were more than 700 players around the world. But over the last six years, nearly 500 brands have dropped out, as a challenging market has led to a lot of corporate bloodshed.
That’s according to a study by Counterpoint Research, which tallied more than 700 smartphone brands competing in 2017, with the total now closer to 250 in 2013. Many are local brands you’ve never heard of, but others were once big-name players such as LG, HTC and BlackBerry.
The staggering number underscores how brutally competitive the smartphone business has been. That’s been particularly true over the last few years, which saw a pandemic disrupt everything and devastate a number of local brands. 2023 hasn’t been any better, with the total market hitting a record low decline of 6%.
It’s hard to imagine there being so many brands, but that’s because a majority of them were smaller local players with once-entrenched positions in specific regions, such as India’s Micromax or China’s LeEco. Most of them were wiped out during the stretch between 2020 and 2021, when component shortages resulted in limited supplies of devices. But the last two years have seen a weaker economy and softer consumer spending, which took down dozens more players.
The number of big players, such as Apple and Samsung, have remained steady over this stretch, having been able to weather the various challenges. In China, which birthed countless phone brands, the dominance of Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo have led to a lot of smaller players disappearing over the years.
The shrinking market of players also reflects the fact that fewer people are upgrading their phones every year, or even two years. In the U.S. wireless carriers have added three-year installment plans on devices, meaning folks are hanging on to their devices longer. Overseas, where there are even fewer deals to offset increasingly expensive smartphones, consumers are finding it harder to justify a new device.