The smartphone market is growing again

Nick Summers
·Senior Editor
·2 min read

It’s taken a while but the smartphone market appears to be growing once again. IDC (International Data Corporation) has announced that handset shipments reached 385.9 million in the final quarter of 2020, up 16 million year-over-year. It’s an impressive end to an otherwise dismal 12 months. Smartphone shipments started at 275.8 million in Q1 2020, down 11.7 percent from the year before. They climbed to 278.4 million in the second quarter — a 16 percent drop year-over-year — before rising to 353.6 million, which was also down on the same quarter in 2019. The fourth quarter rebound, therefore, will have settled some investor and boardroom nerves.

Apple took pole position with 90.1 million smartphone shipments throughout the quarter. That figure is “the highest shipment volume from a vendor in a single quarter,” according to the IDC, and lines up with the earnings report that Apple published yesterday. Samsung ranked second, with 73.9 million shipments and 19.1 percent market share, followed by Xiaomi and Oppo with 43.3 million and 33.8 million respectively.

Huawei ended up in fifth position, which is a massive year-over-year drop. It’s a small surprise given the company topped the smartphone charts last summer, according to research firm Canalys. The company is still grappling with US sanctions, and is reportedly considering whether to spin off its premium Mate and P smartphone brands. (Huawei has already done this with its Honor sub-brand.) Still, Huawei is a powerhouse brand with a strong foothold in Asia. It will be interesting to see, therefore, whether it can climb back up the shipment charts in the next few quarters.

IDC believes the current growth “will remain strong” throughout 2021. Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, said the market was rebounding due to some general pent-up demand, the roll-out of 5G, aggressive sales and the success of low and mid-tier phones. “Lockdowns also have people spending less on areas like leisure, travel, and dining out – and smartphones are benefitting from this,” she added. “In addition to all these factors, the fast recovery and resilience of the smartphone supply chain also has to be given some credit.”