The global smartphone market climbed 28.1% year on year to reach total shipments of 351.1 million units in the first quarter of 2021, according to preliminary data from Informa owned Omdia. That gain consolidates the smartphone market’s recent recovery after it posted its first annual growth since Q3 2019 in the final quarter of 2020. However, Omdia said 2021 is set to be a year of transition with Huawei’s role continuing to change, LG exiting the market and a severe semiconductor shortage affecting sales.
Samsung took over the top spot from Apple in the first 3 months of 2021, shipping 76.1 million units, up 29.2 percent year on year, to reach 22 percent of the market. The company was able to increase shipments by 22.8 percent from Q4 2020 thanks in part to an early update to the Galaxy S line as well as the launch of its latest range of devices in the A series.
Apple followed its blockbuster Q4 2020 with another significant year on year growth of 46.5% to reach 56.4 million units shipped in the quarter, equivalent to 16% of the market, followed in third place by Xiaomi with 14% after shipping 49.5 million units, up 78.3% year on year.
Two more Chinese smartphone brands – Oppo and Vivo – continue to battle for fourth and fifth place in the global rankings and remain tied on 11 percent of the market. Vivo shipped 38.2 million units, just above the 37.8 million units Oppo shipped in Q1.
Year on year, Vivo grew shipments by 95.9 percent and Oppo by 85.3 percent, as they overtook Huawei, which slipped out of the top 5 global smartphone OEM ranking after shipping 14.7 million units, some 70 percent less than in Q1 2020, not including the 3.6 million units shipped by its sub-brand Honor, which is now an independent entity.
Top 10 Shipments per manufacturer
|Shipment (m)||M/S||Shipment (m)||M/S||Shipment (m)||M/S|
Gerrit Schneemann, principal analyst at Omdia commented: “The smartphone market continues to show resiliency in the face of multiple challenges. The global component supply shortage is looming large over the market. On the other hand, two well-known smartphone brands will disappear from the global smartphone market this year, in Huawei and LG, opening the door for other brands to reach new markets and buyers.”
Separately, International Data Corporation (IDC) said that the smartphone market accelerated in the first quarter of 2021 (1Q-2021) with 25.5% year-over-year shipment growth.
According to preliminary data from the (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, smartphone vendors shipped nearly 346 million devices during the quarter. The strong growth came from all regions with the greatest gains coming from China and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan and China). As the two largest regions globally, accounting for half of all global shipments, these regions experienced 30% and 28% year-over-year growth, respectively.
“The recovery is proceeding faster than we expected, clearly demonstrating a healthy appetite for smartphones globally. But amidst this phenomenal growth, we must remember that we are comparing against one of the worst quarters in smartphone history,1Q20, the start of the pandemic when the bulk of the supply chain was at a halt and China was in full lockdown,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “However, the growth is still very real; when compared to two years ago (1Q19), shipments are 11% higher. The growth is coming from years of repressed refresh cycles with a boost from 5G. But above all, it is a clear illustration of how smartphones are becoming an increasingly important element of our everyday life – a trend that is expected to continue as we head into a post-pandemic world with many consumers carrying forward the new smartphone use cases which emerged from the pandemic.”
As the smartphone market is recovering, a major shift is happening in the competitive landscape. Huawei is finally out of the Top 5 for the first time in many years, after suffering heavy declines under the increased weight of U.S. sanctions. Taking advantage of this are the Chinese vendors Xiaomi, OPPO, and vivo, which all grew share over last quarter landing them in 3rd, 4th, and 5th places globally during the quarter with 14.1%, 10.8%, and 10.1% share, respectively. All three vendors are increasing their focus in international markets where Huawei had grown its share in recent years. In the low- to mid-priced segment, it is these vendors that are gaining the most from Huawei’s decline, while most of the high-end share is going to Apple and Samsung. Samsung regained the top spot in 1Q21 with impressive shipments of 75.3 million and 21.8% share. The new S21 series did well for Samsung, mainly thanks to a successful pricing strategy shaving off $200 from last year’s flagship launch. Apple, with continued success of its iPhone 12 series, lost some share from their very strong holiday quarter but still shipped an impressive 55.2 million iPhones grabbing 16.0% share.
“While Huawei continues its decline in the smartphone market, we’ve also learned that LG is exiting the market altogether,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “Most of LG’s volume was in the Americas with North America accounting for over 50% of its volume and Latin America another 30%. Despite the vendor losing ground in recent years, they still had 9% of the North America market and 6% of Latin America. Their exit creates some immediate opportunity for other brands. With competition being more cutthroat than ever, especially at the low-end, it is safe to assume that 6-10 brands are eyeing this share opportunity.”
|Top 5 Smartphone Companies, Worldwide Shipments, Market Share, and Year-Over-Year Growth, Q1 2021 (shipments in millions of units)|
|Company||1Q21 Shipment Volumes||1Q21 Market Share||1Q20 Shipment Volumes||1Q20 Market Share||Year-Over-Year Change|
|Source: IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, April 28, 2021|
- Data are preliminary and subject to change.
- Company shipments are branded device shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors.
- The “Company” represents the current parent company (or holding company) for all brands owned and operated as a subsidiary.
- Figures represent new shipments only and exclude refurbished units.
“Globally, the top five vendors combined took a 76% market share in Q1 2021, up from 71% a year ago. Chip shortages and supply side constraints did not have a significant impact in Q1 among the top 5 brands,” said Linda Sui, senior director, Strategy Analytics. Samsung’s newly launched A series 4G and 5G phones, and the earlier launched Galaxy S21 series combined drove solid performance in the quarter. Xiaomi maintained strong momentum in both India and China, and the expansion in Europe, Latin America and Africa region also started to bear fruit.
Note: Strategy Analytics said the global smartphone shipments were 340 million units in Q1 2021, up over 24% (year-on-year) representing the highest growth since 2015. The smartphone market rebound was driven by the healthy demand of consumers with aging devices and a phenomenal 5G push from Chinese smartphone vendors.