Samsung remains number one in Malaysia driven by sales of its Galaxy J series last year, according to a report by International Data Corp. (IDC). The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco had minimal impact on Samsung's overall performance as the high-end range was not its key seller in Malaysia, the firm added.

Overall, the market slowed with 2.7 million units of smartphone shipments in Malaysia recorded in the last quarter of 2016, closing the year with about 8.8 million units shipped, a 5.9% decline year-on-year (YoY).

 
IDC Malaysia report fig1 (cr) Figure 1: IDC Asia/Pacific chart for 2016Q4 shows the top 5 smartphone vendors and their Malaysia smartphone shipments, market share and YoY growth (units in thousands). (Source: IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.)  

IDC claimed that while the slowdown was caused by various negative economic factors, smartphone shipments still recorded activity driven by consumers’ need to upgrade. Vendors and resellers experienced minor setbacks as their profits were squeezed, mainly due to the weakening Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) against the greenback combined with other rising costs. The firm noted that most of the smartphones were sold on telco contracts.

In terms of ranking, Apple climbed back up to the second position during the seasonal release of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Oppo maintained its growth trajectory attracting a large customer base with the help of its usual marketing initiatives, according to IDC. It also focused on a few key products, mainly the F1 series. Huawei's P9 series, meanwhile, remained popular almost a year since its release. The dual camera function is one of the key drivers for its growth, the market researcher belives, being one of the few Android devices with such features on the local market.

Unfortunately for Asus, it was sidelined by louder brands, such as Oppo and Vivo, in terms of marketing. Its Zenfone 3 lacked flair compared with the Zenfone 2, which was released back in 2015.

 
IDC Malaysia report fig2 (cr) Figure 2: The top 5 smartphone vendors in all of 2016 compiled by IDC. (units in thousands).  

"The market situation led local resellers to opt to upsell brands that not only have better margins, but have become popular with consumers, mainly Samsung and China brands, such as Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. Budget- and brand-conscious consumers are increasingly opting for brands that have become globally renowned via aggressive marketing initiatives and well-built devices,” said Jensen Ooi, Market Analyst, Client Devices, IDC Asia/Pacific.

In 2017, IDC expects vendors, particularly the large ones, to streamline their lineups and better manage their resources as they attempt to move toward midrange/high-end devices. Meanwhile, low-end devices will mainly be supplied by either operator brands or lesser known brands. The prices of each new generation of smartphone released will also be higher compared with the last due to new features and the currency impact, which is unlikely to improve anytime soon.