According to Strategy Analytics, global smartphone shipments were up 6 percent from 380.1 million units in Q4 2014 to 404.5 million in Q4 2015. However, according to the firm, that "was the smartphone industry's slowest growth rate of all time."
IDC, meanwhile, estimated a slightly smaller 5.7 percent growth, from 377.8 million units in Q4 2014 to 399.5 million units in Q4 2015. To them, though, that signified a "strong holiday quarter [that] boosted worldwide smartphone volumes to new record levels."
Both firms, however, agreed that the 1.4 billion smartphones shipped in 2015 overall - a 12 percent bump, Strategy Analytics said - was a noteworthy milestone. Both also noted the growth of Huawei.
"Huawei joined an elite club and shipped over 100 million smartphones in a year for the first time ever during 2015," said Woody Oh, Director at Strategy Analytics. "It was an impressive performance. However, there are signs that Huawei's growth is starting to slow. Its annual growth rate of 35 percent halved sequentially from 62 percent in the prior quarter, as major vendors like Xiaomi began to fight back in core markets of Asia."
IDC's Melissa Chau pointed out that "Huawei is one of the few brands from China that has successfully diversified worldwide, with almost half of its shipments going outside of China." She predicted that the phone maker "is poised to be in a good position to hold onto a strong number 3 over the next year."
Samsung, however, was once again No. 1 with 20.1 percent of global smartphone market share during the quarter, Strategy Analytics said. Apple landed at 18.5 percent, followed by Huawei (8.1 percent), Lenovo-Motorola (5 percent), and Xiaomi (4.8 percent).
"This was Samsung's fastest growth rate for almost two years, and it helped Samsung to stay ahead of Apple and maintain first position," said Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics executive director.
Despite a record quarter, "Apple's iPhone growth is peaking," Mawston said. "Apple will have to expand into new markets like India or Nigeria if it wants to reignite iPhone growth in 2016."
IDC had similar market share numbers, but IDC Research Manager Anthony Scarsella was a little more optimistic about Apple.
"Apple assured the public that demand for its premium smartphones is still alive and kicking," he said. "A new record-setting quarter ... indicates consumers' continued demand for Apple's latest offerings regarding upgraded hardware and software."