There is no denying that smartphone prices for flagship devices are getting out of control. We use to balk at spending $500 on a handset only a few years ago, and now high-end devices like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy series often sell for over $1,000. High prices have opened the door for companies like OnePlus that make premium devices at much lower prices to step through and challenge Apple and Samsung for market dominance. Research firm Counterpoint has announced that in the Indian market, the best selling premium smartphone brand for Q4 2018 was OnePlus thanks to devices like the OnePlus 6T that debuted in October.
What turned things around so quickly for OnePlus, according to Counterpoint, is the strong performance of the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T smartphones. Shipments in the premium smartphone segment, which is the $400 and higher range, in India reached its peak in Q4 2018. The overall premium segment in India grew 8% year-over-year for 2018, and Q4 2018 sales were up 16% compared to Q4 2017.
The top three brands in the segment were OnePlus, Apple, and Samsung accounting for 92% of the total premium market in the country combined. OnePlus owned 36% of the premium market in Q4 2018. Samsung did well in the Indian market for Q4 with 26% of the premium segment with shipments up 72% year-over-year in Q4 2018.
One of the big successes for Samsung was the Galaxy A9. The overall smartphone market leader in 2018 was Samsung, but it only narrowly beat out OnePlus for that honor. For the entirety of 2018, Samsung had 34% of the premium market in India while OnePlus had 33% and Apple had 23%. All other smartphone makers combined had a scant 10% of the premium market in the country.
Apple's shipments in the premium segment declined 25% in Q4 2018 linked in part to high prices due to a 20% import duty on iPhones. Apple has reportedly started to build iPhones in India in an attempt to lower costs and eliminate that import duty. India is a crucial market for smartphone makers as other global markets are slowing. Recent leaks showing an alleged OnePlus 7 hinting at a device that will continue to put pressure on Samsung and Apple around the world.