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Apple retakes second place in smartphone shipment rankings

Apple overtook Huawei to reclaim its spot as the second-bestselling smartphone manufacturer in the world in 2020, according to new research reports from Counterpoint Research and Canalys. Samsung was still the leading seller in terms of number of smartphones shipped, while Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo took the next three spots, according to Counterpoint.

In its recent earnings report, Apple said Q4 was its first quarter to bring in over $100 billion in sales, 59 percent of which came from iPhones.

Apple was followed by Samsung in second and Xiaomi in third. The Chinese firm’s 32 percent YoY growth was the largest of the top five firms.

It was bad news for Huawei; with US sanctions now finally having an effect, the 32.2 million smartphones it shipped marked a 42.4 percent decrease compared to the previous year. The company sold its Honor unit for over $15 billion in November, and may do the same with its Mate and P brands.

Apple’s gains were more modest, increasing by 3 or 5 percent year over year depending on whether you ask Counterpoint Research or Canalys. The latter notes that Apple shipped the most iPhones ever in the fourth quarter of last 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,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.

Although it’s still the bestselling smartphone manufacturer in the world, both reports suggest that Samsung’s smartphone business is losing market share. Both Canalys and Counterpoint say its shipments fell 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. It’s still around 50 million smartphones ahead of second place Apple, but the gap appears to be narrowing. Counterpoint says that the South Korean electronics giant is facing stiff competition from Apple at the high end of the market and from Chinese manufacturers in the midrange.

Overall, the entire smartphone market was reportedly down compared to 2019. Canalys reports that shipments were down 7 percent, while Counterpoint reports a bigger 10 percent decline. Counterpoint blames the pandemic and resulting lockdowns for the drop, but notes that shipments began to pick up in the second half of the year.

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