White box

Apple v. Android: Is Samsung no longer in the driver's seat?

June 29, 2013: 10:53 AM ET

China's "white-box" manufacturers may now be the major engine of growth.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- Consider the two charts at right.

Both were drawn from Gartner's worldwide market share data by Needham's Charlie Wolf, who issued his quarterly report on the smartphone market earlier this week.

The first shows Android cutting into the market share gains Apple (AAPL) made at the end of 2012 when it launched the iPhone 5 and cut the price of the iPhone 4 and 4S.

The second  suggests who is driving Android's growth.

It may not be Samsung anymore.

Samsung is still Android's leading licensee, but it made its biggest gains in 2010 and 2011. Since then its market share has flattened out at around 40%.

Taking over as the major engine of worldwide smartphone growth is "Others."

These are the so-called white box manufacturers -- second tier, no-name phone makers that license Android from Google's (GOOG) because it's the cheapest way for them to get into the game.

"Most of these companies, located in China, have entered the market with low-end, cheaply produced Android phones that are not much more expensive than feature phones," writes Wolf. "Indeed, most buyers of these phones use them as feature phones."

In the U.S. market, where the white-box factor is negligible, the iPhone still holds a 39% to 23% market share lead over Samsung, according to data released by comScore on Friday. But as shown by the new-user chart below, drawn by reader Brian Loftus, Android managed here as well to wipe out the gains Apple made last fall.

Data: comScore. Chart: Brian Loftus.

Data: comScore. Chart: Brian Loftus.

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