Apple takes top spot from Samsung in Q4 2020 as Huawei sinks deeper

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Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

  • Global smartphone shipments recovered in Q4 2020 after a tumultuous year.
  • While Apple led the quarter, Samsung ended 2020 as the world’s biggest smartphone OEM.
  • Firms like Realme and Xiaomi continued to shine, while Lenovo and LG lost ground in 2020.

The global smartphone market experienced a mild recovery in the final quarter of 2020 after a tumultuous year for the industry as a whole. While the majority of OEMs failed to gain any momentum in the final three months of the year, Apple stood head and shoulders above the pack.

Apple saw quarter-on-quarter growth of 96% in Q4 2020, shipping nearly 20 million more units than second-placed Samsung, per Counterpoint’s latest report. It’s clear that the iPhone 12 series is putting considerable pressure on the Korean firm, and as a result, Samsung saw its quarterly growth slashed by 22%. The Galaxy S21 series maker still finished top of the tree in 2020 as a whole, claiming 19% of the global market share over Apple’s 15%.

Huawei’s global struggles continue

Huawei Mate 40 Pro close up of ring camera

Credit: Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Q4 2020 was a nightmare for Huawei. Still impacted by the US sanctions, the company fell from fourth place in Q3 2020 to sixth in the following quarter. It shipped just 33 million devices in Q4 2020, a drop of 35% over Q3 2020. BBK brands Oppo and Vivo increased their shipments by 10% and 8% quarter-over-quarter respectively to overthrow the Chinese giant.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S21 vs iPhone 12: Battle of the giants

Looking at 2020 as a whole, Huawei still clings to third in the global smartphone hierarchy. It mustered 187.7 million shipments across the year to claim 14% of the market share. We expect this number to further decline in 2021 following the sale of Honor and bar any intervention from the Biden Administration.

Xiaomi had a quiet but steady year. It remains the fourth biggest OEM in 2020 shipping 17% more devices than the previous year. It claimed the third spot in Q4 2020 though, shipping 10 million more devices in this quarter than a year prior.

Realme shines, Lenovo fades

RealmeX3 Superzoom display showing home screen standing on table

Other firms worth noting include Realme. The firm’s massive 417% growth in 2019 slowed somewhat in 2020, but it nonetheless saw shipments jump by 65% year-over-year. The company’s good run of form was echoed in India where it claimed 13% market share in the region across 2020 — good enough for fourth place in the country’s market.

Lenovo was among the biggest casualties of 2020. The firm’s shipments tanked by 18%, compounded further by Motorola’s poor performance. The latter saw shipments decrease by 16% in Q4 2020, however, the Motorola Edge S may be a sign of better things to come for the company.

For fellow struggler LG, the year was a mixed bag. While it saw a 13% drop in shipments across 2020 as a whole, the final quarter of the year heralded a minor recovery. The firm welcomed 600,000 more shipments in Q4 2020 than Q4 2019, largely thanks to its mid-range push and new devices like the LG Wing.


Who do you think will end 2021 as the world’s top smartphone maker? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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