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Global smartphone sales declined by 5.4% in Q4 2020: Gartner

Apple surpassed Samsung to become the top smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter of 2020.  

Apple iPhone 12 helped Apple register double-digit growth
Apple iPhone 12 helped Apple register double-digit growth (Robin Sinha/HT Tech)

Global sales of smartphones declined by 5.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020, says Gartner’s new report. Overall, sales dropped by 12.5% in the full year 2020.

Apple was the top brand in terms of smartphone sales in the fourth quarter. According to Gartner, Apple’s growth was driven by the 5G iPhone 12 series. Apple also managed to surpass Samsung as the number 1 global smartphone vendor. Apple last led the table was in the fourth quarter of 2016. Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei grabbed the third, fourth, and fifth positions, respectively.

Gartner notes that the smartphone sales decline was salvaged by the spree of 5G mid-range and budget smartphone launches in the last quarter of the year.

Worldwide Top 5 Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 4Q20
Worldwide Top 5 Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 4Q20 (Gartner)

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

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Even as Apple led the fourth quarter, Samsung emerged as the top smartphone vendor in the full year 2020. Interestingly, Samsung posted a 14.6% decline year-on-year in 2020. The highest decline, however, was suffered by Huawei, the Chinese smartphone brand which faced sanctions by the US.

Worldwide Top 5 Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2020
Worldwide Top 5 Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor in 2020 (Gartner)

Overall, Samsung led 2020 with an 18.8% market share. Apple had a 14.8% share. Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo managed 13.5%, 10.8%, and 8.3% market shares, respectively.

Analysts are pinning hope on the availability of affordable 5G smartphones in 2021 for the revival of handset sales. As of now, 5G is available in select markets. India, which is one of the biggest smartphone markets, doesn’t have a 5G network yet.

“In 2021, the availability of lower end 5G smartphones and innovative features will be deciding factors for end users to upgrade their existing smartphones,” said Gupta. “The rising demand for affordable 5G smartphones outside China will boost smartphone sales in 2021.”

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