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Apple just ceded one crown to Microsoft, but it picked up a new one

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Apple Inc. may have given back the title of largest U.S. public company to Microsoft Corp., but it has just picked up a different crown for the first time.

The consumer-electronics company was the the largest smartphone vendor by shipments during 2023, according to new data from market researcher IDC. Apple
AAPL,
-1.23%

shipped 234.6 million devices during the year, per the data, ahead of Samsung Electronics Co.
005930,
-1.76%
,
which shipped 226.6 million.

Apple has never before held the top spot, according to IDC data. And 2023 marked the first time since 2010 that a company other than Samsung has occupied the position.

Read: Why Microsoft’s stock is a better investment than Apple’s

Apple’s ascent came during a tough year for the overall smartphone market, as industry shipments on the whole dropped 3.2%. Apple posted 3.7% year-over-year growth, becoming the only one of the top four phone makers to log an increase in shipments.

The company saw shipments rise 11.6% in the calendar fourth quarter as it easily led the market with 80.5 million units, according to IDC. Samsung was second for the quarter with 53 million shipments, down 10.9%. Xiaomi and Transsion, two Chinese manufacturers, took the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, with 40.7 million shipments (up 22.7%) and 28.2 million shipments (up 68.6), respectively.

“While we saw some strong growth from low-end Android players like Transsion and Xiaomi in the second half of 2023, stemming from rapid growth in emerging markets, the biggest winner is clearly Apple,” IDC research director Nabila Popal said in a release.

Apple will offer its own view on the December quarter when it posts earnings after the close of markets Feb. 1.

The company’s good standing in IDC’s tables comes amid some investor concern about Apple’s positioning. Some on Wall Street are worried about resurgent competition from Huawei Technologies Co. and other manufacturers in China, and Apple is planning a rare discounting event in that country for the Lunar New Year holiday.

See more: Apple’s decision to discount iPhones in China makes a statement

Shares of Apple closed 1.2% lower Tuesday and are off 4.6% to start 2024. The company now carries a $2.84 trillion market value, having recently slipped below Microsoft
MSFT,
+0.46%
,
which finished Tuesday’s trading day with a $2.9 trillion valuation.

But IDC noted that Apple still has a strong position in the smartphone market. “Apple’s ongoing success and resilience is in large part due to the increasing trend of premium devices, which now represent over 20% of the market, fueled by aggressive trade-in offers and interest-free financing plans,” Popal said.

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