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iPhone sales surge in Q1 on strong China, emerging market performance

Echoing findings from IDC earlier this month, market research firm Gartner this week estimated global iPhone sales hit 60.2 million units for the first quarter of 2015, in large part thanks to a surge in China.

According to Gartner's latest data, Apple's 60.2 million worldwide unit sales amounted to 17.9 percent of the market, putting the company in second place behind Samsung. The Korean tech giant moved 81.1 million handsets for a 24.2-percent marketshare, down from 30.4 percent in 2014.

Compared to the same time last year, Apple grew its slice of the global smartphone pie 2.6 percent on an unseasonably strong performance in China, where iPhone surpassed Xiaomi's offerings to become the top-selling device for the first time ever. During the first quarter, iPhone sales grew 72.5 percent in Greater China, making the region Apple's largest volume market ahead of North America.

"Apple's extension into more Asian markets helped it close the gap with Samsung globally," said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner. "In the same period last year, there was a difference of more than 40 million units with Samsung; this difference has been halved, within one year, to just over 20 million units."

Samsung's lackluster performance contributed to a 1.9-percent slip in Android's hold on the market. Apple's iOS, on the other hand, enjoyed continued growth for the third consecutive quarter after a hugely successful iPhone 6 launch. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and BlackBerry both dropped 0.2 percent over the same period.

Earlier in May, researchers at IDC found similar growth in Asian iPhone uptake despite seeing a contraction in the Chinese smartphone market. IDC was slightly more conservative with its iPhone numbers, pegging Apple's China growth at 62.1 percent year over year.

Gartner saw an uptick in overall smartphone sales with numbers jumping from 281.6 million devices sold in the first quarter of 2014 to 336 million this year. The firm associated the sector's strong performance with boosted sales in emerging markets across Asia/Pacific (excluding China), Eastern Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.