Samsung -- the world's largest smartphone vendor and a big, early player in the 5G sector -- said that it has sold 2 million 5G-capable smartphones globally so far. And the company added it is on track to double that figure, to 4 million, by the end of 2019.
JuneHee Lee, SVP and head of Samsung Electronics' technology strategy team, made the announcement today during a Qualcomm press event at the IFA electronics show in Berlin, according to a report on the event from Cnet.
According to Strategy Analytics, that would make Samsung responsible for four out of every five 5G smartphones shipped in 2019.
As noted by IDC, Samsung maintained the top position in the smartphone market in the second quarter of 2019 by shipping 75.5 million smartphones out of the total 333.2 million smartphones shipped by all vendors during the period. In 5G, the company has sought to gain an early-mover advantage by cramming 5G capabilities into flagship devices like the Galaxy S10, Galaxy Note 10 and, most recently, the Galaxy Fold, though Cnet reports the 5G version of Smasung's first folding phone won't ship to the US.
Other smartphone vendors that have entered the 5G field include Huawei, OnePlus and LG.
Samsung's position in 5G is noteworthy considering Apple -- which according to IDC is the world's third-largest smartphone vendor behind Huawei -- is widely expected to stay off of the 5G field for another full year. (Indeed, Apple's recent move from Intel to Qualcomm as its chipset provider was widely seen as a way for Apple to more quickly enter the 5G industry.) Apple's rumored decision to hold off on 5G for a year could pave the way for Samsung to gain ground over Apple among the customers who both know what 5G is and who are prepared to spend money on it.
That said, Apple's 5G lag ultimately may not unduly affect the company or its shareholders. "We are also as yet uncertain about demand for 5G phones in 2020, given the reality of higher costs and uncertainty of operator promotions," wrote the analysts at Wall Street research firm Nomura's Instinet of Apple's financial outlook.
Nonetheless, many still believe the 5G industry will gain serious momentum in the years to come -- for example, multiple industry analyst firms have recently raised their 5G sales forecasts. "The short-term outlook for 5G smartphones is weak, but the long-term opportunity remains huge. We forecast 1 billion 5G smartphones to ship worldwide per year by 2025," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a recent statement.
Chipset vendors pushing 5G
Apart from the questions over Apple's 5G strategy, another clear trend that emerged this week is the growing number of 5G silicon options. Samsung introduced its first integrated 5G processor, the Exynos 980, while Huawei unveiled the Kirin 990 5G that it is calling the "industry's first 5G SoC." And Qualcomm -- which is far and away the leader in modems for smartphones -- announced it will integrate 5G connectivity into its 6- and 7-series chipsets starting next year alongside its flagship 8-series processors. The company added that the products will support a full range of 5G spectrum bands, from sub-6GHz to millimeter-wave options.
Analysts generally gave Qualcomm high marks for its efforts to rapidly expand 5G sales to more devices. "This is called utter disruption!" tweeted Counterpoint Research analyst Neil Shah.
"No doubt 5G is going to accelerate rapidly down the price curve over next 18 months," added CCS Insight's Ben Wood.
"Impressive, strong support among partners underlining Qualcomm’s open approach to drive the 5G ecosystem," noted media and telecom analyst Paolo Pescatore. "5G is happening significantly faster than 4G."