Apple Finally Tops Global Smartphone Market and Could Remain There with New iPhone 13

iPhone maker, Apple climbed to the top of the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2020. According to Gartner, the smartphone maker sold over 79.9 million iPhones to leapfrog Samsung in sales during the quarter.

A breakdown shows that iPhone sales surged by 15% in the last 3 months of the year after the launch of the 5G iPhone 12 series. Samsung’s sales, however, shrank by some 5.4%.

At the end of the quarter, total smartphone sale to end-users across the world declined by 5.4%. Samsung accounted for a market share of 16.2% while Apple captured 20.8% to top the list for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2016.

5G sales minimized market decline to 12.5% in 2020 despite pandemic

2020 was not a good year for smartphone manufacturers. The problems started in Q1 when sales dropped by 11.7% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial growth prospect that would have been driven by the introduction of 5G was stalled by the pandemic.

The drop continued in the second quarter as worldwide sales dropped further to 20.4%. However, Q3 started showing great signs of recovery with sales dropping just 5.7% during the quarter.

Apple Tops Smartphone Market for the First Time in 4 years

The fourth quarter was even better as totals sales just drop 5.4%. The recovery recorded in the last two quarter minimized the sales drop to 12.5% for the year (2020).

According to the senior research director at Gartner, Anshul Gupta, the sale of more 5G smartphones and lower to mid-tier smartphones minimized the market decline in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter.”

Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner.
Apple Tops Smartphone Market for the First Time in 4 years

Samsung remains market king

Samsung remained at top of the smartphone market with 253 million sales in 2020 despite experiencing a year-on-year decline of 14.6%. The initial successes the South Korea-based company witnessed at the beginning of the year was not enough for positive growth as it faced strong competition from regional vendors like Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo.

The launch of the 5G iPhone 12 series in Q4 helped Apple record double-digit growth to move into the No. 2 spot, surpassing Huawei. The iPhone maker made a total of 199.8 million sales to rake in 14.8% of the market share.

Apple and Xiaomi were the only two smartphone vendors in the top five ranking to experience growth in 2020

Huawei recorded the highest decline among the top five smartphone vendors. The company made a total of 182.6 million sales, representing a market share of 13.5% and a decline of 24.1% Y-oY.

The report explained that the ban on use of Google applications on Huawei’s smartphones was detrimental to Huawei’s performance in the year and negatively affected sales.

Xiaomi’s market share surpassed 10% after a significant growth of 15.7% during the year – the largest growth of the top 5. The maker sold a total of 145.8 million while Oppo made sales of 111.7 million to gain a market share of 8.3%.

First Made-in-Africa Smartphones Launched by Rwanda's Mara Corporation. Costs $159
A worker operates a Mara X smartphone during the launch by Rwanda’s Mara Group in Kigali, Rwanda October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

Moving Forward

According to Mr Gupta, the availability of lower end 5G smartphones and innovative features will be deciding factors for end-users to upgrade their existing smartphones in 2021.

He added that the rising demand for affordable 5G smartphones outside China will also boost smartphone sales in 2021.

With the recent release of Samsung flagship S21 series and the upcoming iPhone 13, smartphone sale is poised to fully recover in 2021 if Mr Gupta predictions are right.


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