The global smartphone market experienced a fairly torrid first six months of 2020 as a result of measures adopted to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it seems that the situation improved significantly in the latter half of the year.
According to latest figures from research and consultancy firm Omdia, a sister company of Light Reading, the smartphone market grew 4.7% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2020 – the first time since Q3 2019 that the smartphone market has achieved year-on-year growth in a quarter.
Global shipments reached 381.1 million units in the final quarter of last year – up from 364 million units in Q4 2019. Compared to Q3 2020, shipments increased 6.7% from 357.3 million units.
In the year as a whole, shipments reached 1.294 billion units, down 6.7% from the 1.387 billion units shipped in 2019.
Huawei drops out of top five in Q4
In terms of the ranking of smartphone manufacturers, Omdia said Huawei dropped out of the top five in Q4 2020 because of the ongoing impact of US sanctions. For the quarter, Huawei's shipments fell 42.9% year-on-year to 32 million units.
For the year, Huawei also lost the second spot to Apple after its shipments declined 21.6%, from 240.6 million units in 2019 to 188.7 million units in 2020.
Table 1: Smartphone shipments
|Shipment (m)||M/S||Shipment (m)||M/S|
The China-based vendor sold off its Honor sub-brand in Q4 2020. It recently denied what it described as "unsubstantiated rumors" about the possible sale of its flagship smartphone brands Pro and Mate.
LG Electronics also continues to struggle: The South Korean manufacturer remains in ninth place in both the 12-month and Q4 rankings. It is now considering what to do with its loss-making mobile communications business after efforts to shake up the unit appear to have been unsuccessful.
Apple and Samsung continue to dominate the rankings, meanwhile, with the South Korean vendor topping the annual ranking and Apple in first place for Q4 2020.
Apple, of course, benefited from the launch of the first 5G-enabled iPhone, which Omdia noted was "critical in helping Apple generate a modest year-on-year growth." In the quarter, it shipped 84.5 million units, up 20.5% compared to Q4 2019. For the year, Apple shipped 204 million units or 4.6% more than in 2019.
Samsung shipped 62.2 million units in Q4 2020, down 11.1% compared to Q4 2019. Samsung's annual shipments fell 12.8% to 257 million units, which Omdia said is the lowest volume since 2013.
"The pandemic had a significant impact on Samsung in Q1 and Q2 of last year, leaving the company too big a hill to climb to exit the year in positive territory, compared to 2019. Samsung could also not sustain momentum from a positive Q3 2020 into Q4," Omdia observed.
As for the remaining top-five vendors, Omdia noted that China's Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo are beneficiaries of Huawei's "challenging 2020."
Xiaomi reached third place in Q4 2020, shipping 47.2 million units – up 44.5% compared to Q4 2019. For the year, the company shipped 148.3 million units, "the biggest shipments ever for Xiaomi," Omdia said. Compared to 2019, Xiaomi was able to increase unit shipments by 19.6% to 148 million and was in fourth place.
"The company continues to inch closer to the 50 million units per quarter mark, which has only been breached by Samsung, Apple and Huawei in recent quarters," Omdia added.
Oppo and Vivo battled for fourth place in the quarter, with Vivo shipping 34.5 million units – slightly more than the 34.1 million units Oppo shipped in Q4 2020. "Both companies grew quarterly shipments significantly compared to Q4 2019 – Oppo grew 32.1% and Vivo 40.8% year-over-year," Omdia said.
For the year, fifth-placed Vivo shipped 107.9 million units, 2.5% more than the 105.2 million units in 2019. Oppo, on the other hand, saw shipments decline 5% from 110.5 million units in 2019 to 105 million units in 2020.
- Huawei denies it's exiting the smartphone business
- Honor cashes in chips post-Huawei
- Don't hold your breath for a 5G Hail Mary from Apple
- LG mulls options for troubled smartphone unit
- Five 5G takeaways from Samsung's new phones
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading