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Huawei grabs biggest share of 5G smartphone shipments in 2019

Huawei has hit the ground running in terms of shipments of shiny new 5G smartphones, providing rare good news for the beleaguered China-based vendor. According to Strategy Analytics, Huawei accounted for 6.9 million of the 18.7 million units shipped worldwide in 2019, giving it a market share of 37%.

But Huawei was only just the market leader, as Samsung was close behind with a 36% market share. Furthermore, Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, associate director at Strategy Analytics, pointed out that "almost all" of Huawei's shipments were in China, "where US sanctions have made relatively less impact." In contrast, Samsung's shipments were to a broader spread of countries, from South Korea to the UK.

Huawei and Samsung were still streets ahead of rivals: Third-placed Vivo shipped 2 million units, while Xiaomi accounted for 1.2 million and LG 0.9 million.

Global 5G Smartphone Vendor Shipments and Marketshare in 2019 (Source: Strategy Analytics)

Global 5G Smartphone Shipments by Vendor (Millions of Units) 2018 2019
Huawei 0.0 6.9
Samsung 0.0 6.7
Vivo 0.0 2.0
Xiaomi 0.0 1.2
LG 0.0 0.9
Others 0.0 1.0
Total 0.0 18.7

Global 5G Smartphone Marketshare by Vendor (% of Total)

2018

2019
Huawei 0.0% 36.9%
Samsung 0.0% 35.8%
Vivo 0.0% 10.7%
Xiaomi 0.0% 6.4%
LG 0.0% 4.8%
Others 0.0% 5.3%
Total 0.0% 100.0%

Market dynamics will likely shift significantly when Apple finally launches a 5G iPhone. Latest rumors suggest three "5G-ready" iPhones could be released in the second half of 2020.

The good news for mobile operators, which need to make money from expensive 5G networks, is that demand for 5G smartphones appears higher than expected. However, Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, added some words of caution, noting that the coronavirus scare is currently restricting trade in some parts of China. "Industry players should be prepared for bumpy 5G sales in some markets," he said.

Thus the jury still seems to be out on whether we will see a "super cycle" in the mobile phone industry this year, driven by 5G.

Market trends may become clearer during the upcoming MWC 2020 show in Barcelona, the obvious forum for any major moves or (especially) unexpected developments in device strategies.

There is certainly an expectation that sales will ramp significantly this year and next: Gartner expects sales of 5G mobile phones will hit 221 million units in 2020 (about 12% of overall mobile phone sales) and more than double in 2021, to 489 million units.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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