Despite what you may have heard, the iPhone is still alive and kickin’

As previously noted, Apple hit a new high in iPhone sales over the holiday quarter with 74.8 million units shipped, albeit just 0.3 million more than the same quarter one year ago. 

Continued demand for Apple's iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, particularly in China and the U.S., elevated Apple in 2015 to 231.5 million units shipped in the year, according to new data from IDC. This represents 20.2% growth from the 192.7 million units shipped in 2014. The combination of new innovative features such as Apple Pay and Force Touch, combined with a new Rose Gold color, better performance, and increased speed, helped drive upgrades and attracted Android switchers in record numbers, according to the research group.

Although the Cupertino-based vendor witnessed minimal growth year over year, its 2015 total market share climbed to 16.2%, up from 14.8% in 2014. Growth in key markets such as China were up 18%, in which 50% were first-time iPhone owners. Sales in many emerging markets were also up as India saw the biggest increase among the BRIC countries with 76% growth. 

Apple accomplished all this despite the increase in average selling price (ASP) for an iPhone. ASPs climbed to $691, up from $687 one year ago, potentially pointing to increased demand for a larger screen and higher capacity models.

"With initial Apple shipment estimates all over the map, Apple assured the public that demand for its premium smartphones is still alive and kicking," says Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "A new record-setting quarter for Apple indicates consumers continued demand for Apple's latest offerings regarding upgraded hardware and software. Features such as a more widely accepted Apple Pay, increased performance, and the innovative Force Touch technology, continue to set the iPhone apart from the competition.”

To combat Apple at the high-end, competing vendors will need to bring value to consumers to stay relevant in the market, he adds. With heavy saturation in many mature smartphone markets such as the U.S., Europe, and China, many vendors have placed a renewed focus on pushing premium-looking mid-tier devices as a new value proposition to consumers in both developed and emerging markets. 

Samsung remained the leader in the worldwide smartphone market for the quarter and the year with 85.6 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2015; that’s up 14% from last year. The Korean firm finished the year with 324.8 million shipments, which is up only 2.1% from the 318.2 million shipments in 2014. With continuously increasing pressure in the high end from Apple, and at the low end to midrange from Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, and others, Samsung faces a multi-front battle, says IDC.