Global smartphone shipments fell in the fourth quarter of 2022, generally considered a big pre-holiday shopping period, as a result of macroeconomic weakness and weak consumer demand, according to market research firm IDC, cited by CNBC business TV.

Electronics firms shipped 300.3 million smartphones in the three months from October to December, down 18.3 percent year-on-year, IDC said in a report released late Wednesday.

This is the biggest drop in a quarter.

A total of 1.21 billion smartphones were shipped in 2022, representing the lowest annual shipment total since 2013 "due to significantly reduced consumer demand, inflation and economic uncertainty," IDC noted.

"Never before have we seen shipments during the pre-holiday quarter be lower than the previous quarter. However, weakened demand and high inventories have caused suppliers to cut shipments dramatically," said Nabila Popal, director of research at IDC.

Shipments represent the devices that companies such as Apple and Samsung ship to retailers and mobile operators.

They don't equate to sales, but they do give an indication of demand.

IDC said "a difficult end to the past year puts expectations for a 2.8% recovery in 2023 in serious jeopardy with significant downside risk to this forecast".

Apple has maintained its position as the number one smartphone manufacturer in the world.

The US tech giant shipped 72.3 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2022, but that represented a 14.9% year-over-year decline, IDC said.

Apple's market share at the time was 24.1%.

The decline came despite Apple releasing its latest models – the iPhone 14 series – ahead of the crucial pre-holiday quarter.

China reports over 30% decline in mobile phone shipments

The US tech giant faced a number of supply chain issues in the fourth quarter of last year after the world's largest iPhone manufacturing plant in Zhengzhou, China, was hit by the Covid pandemic and labor protests.

Samsung, the world's second-largest smartphone player, saw shipments fall 15.6 percent year-on-year to 58.2 million units.

Samsung didn't launch a brand new flagship smartphone in the fourth quarter, but it's holding an event on February 1st this year where it's likely to showcase its new device.

Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi, in third place, shipped 33.2 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of last year, down 26.3% year-on-year.

This is the biggest decline among the top five players in the smartphone market, which also includes Chinese smartphone makers Oppo and Vivo.

"With smartphone shipments down by more than 11% in 2022, the new 2023 is shaping up to be a year of caution as vendors rethink their device portfolios while marketers think twice before taking on excess inventory," said Anthony Scarsella, director of research at IDC.