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Worldwide smartphone market grew 4.3% in Q4 2020, improving over Q3 decline

Fri 29 Jan 2021

The global smartphone market grew 4.3% year-over-year in Q4 2020, according to new data from IDC, with vendors shipping a total of 385.9 million devices throughout the quarter. 

It comes off the back of a better-than-expected year for smartphones: while total 2020 shipments declined by 5.9% in comparison to 2019, IDC says the market’s recovery in the face of the pandemic was ‘impressive’, with the momentum heading into 2021 remaining strong.

Q4's performance also draws a stark comparison to Q3, when worldwide smartphone shipments declined 1.3% year-over-year.

“There are a lot of elements at play that are fueling the smartphone market recovery – pent-up demand, continued supply push on 5G, aggressive promotions, and the popularity of low to mid-priced phones,” says IDC Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers research director Nabila Popal. 

“Vendors also seem to be better prepared for the second lockdown, ensuring they have the right channel set up ready to fulfil orders and reach the end consumer. Lockdowns also have people spending less on areas like leisure, travel, and dining out – and smartphones are benefitting from this. 

“In addition to all these factors, the fast recovery and resilience of the smartphone supply chain also has to be given some credit.”

How the top vendors fared

Apple enjoyed an extremely successful Q4, IDC says, shooting back to the number 1 vendor in terms of shipments.

Due chiefly to the success of its iPhone 12, Apple shipped 90.1 million devices in the quarter, representing the highest shipment volume from a vendor in a single quarter and resulted in 23.4% market share and 22.2% year-over-year growth. 

Apple’s success knocked Samsung down to the number 2 spot with 73.9 million device shipments and 19.1% market share. The Korean giant’s smartphone shipments grew by 6.2% year-over-year, following growth in almost every region.

Xiaomi took third place, shipping 43.3 smartphones and clinching 11.2% market share. OPPO came in fourth place with 33.8 million shipments and 8.8% market share — both companies saw gains this quarter following declining Huawei shipments. 

This decline meant Huawei came in fifth place, with 32.3 million shipments and 8.4% market share. The Chinese company continues to suffer under the weight of U.S. sanctions and saw a dramatic year-over-year decline of 42.4%.

“The recovery of both the smartphone market and its supply chain has been truly impressive and the year-end growth is testament to how far we’ve come,” says IDC Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers program vice president Ryan Reith. 

“The majority of the world is either in some form of lockdown or still waiting to return to normal day-to-day life, yet smartphone sales are rebounding as though nothing ever happened. This illustrates the importance of smartphones in everyone’s life and provides a strong foundation for market demand. 

“As the world progresses towards a post-pandemic environment, IDC believes demand will grow and the market recovery will accelerate.”

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