IPhone sales have fallen for the first time, as the global smart phone market grew at its slowest rate in eight years.
Sales of Apple's high-end smart phones suffered their first ever year-on year decline of 4.4 per cent, according to market analyst Garner.
South Korean rival Samsung market share also slipped throughout the year to 22.5 per cent, a decline of 2.2 per cent, but was enough to maintain its position as the world's most popular smart phone vendor. In total, Samsung shipped around 320 million units throughout 2015 globally, compared to Apple's 225 million—some 15.9 per cent of the market.
Consequently Apple's share of the smart phone operating system market also fell, from 20.4 per cent in the final months of 2014 to 17.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2015.
Google's Android share rose 4.7 per cent from 76 per cent the previous year to 80.7 per cent in 2015.
The statistics are indicative of the wider slowdown in smart phone sales, as consumers in developed markets own more smart phones and tablets than ever before, and are replacing them at a slower rate than in the past. Weak international currency and fears of economic slowdown—particularly in China - are also contributing factors.
In total, around 1.4 billion smart phones were shipped last year, which, while a 9.4 per cent rise over the same period in 2014, was the slowest rate of growth in the sector since its early days in 2008.
Chinese vendor Huawei was the year's success story after increasing its sales by 53 per cent, making it the world's third-largest vendor. Huawei previously announced it sold more than 100 million smart phones during 2015, a figure Gartner places at around 104 million.
Fellow China-based brand Xiaomi's sales were revealed to be worse than predicted, after the company claimed to have sold more than 70 million units during 2015, down from its previous estimate of 80 million, which had been revised from the original projection of 100 million. According to Gartner, the company sold closer to 65 million smart phones.
The 'others' band, which includes LG, HTC, Sony and BlackBerry, accounted for just under 45 per cent of the total market in 2015, selling some 635 million phones.
Mobile World Congress, the world's largest mobile phone symposium, is set to kick off in Barcelona at the end of this week. New smart phones from Samsung, LG and Xiaomi are expected to invigorate this year's mobile release cycle, while Apple is widely rumored to be preparing to launch a new entry-level handset called the iPhone 5se at a separate event on March 15, before going on sale three days later. The iPhone 7 is expected to be released in September.