Apple takes global smartphone top spot as iPhone 12 demand surges in the fourth quarter

In quarter four of 2020, worldwide smartphone shipments reached 359.6 million units, a small decline of 2% year-on-year, reports Canalys. The research group says Apple shipped its most iPhones ever in a single quarter, at 81.8 million units, up 4% against the previous year. 

“The iPhone 12 is a hit,” says Canalys Analyst Vincent Thielke. “Apple is better positioned than its competitors on 5G, being heavily skewed towards developed markets, and mobile operator sales channels. But it also made savvy moves behind the scenes to propel its sales and profitability. The omission of a power plug from the iPhone retail box, which reduces weight and size, is making logistics significantly more efficient, amid the ongoing high cost of air freight due to the pandemic. And it also implemented channel-centric growth initiatives to target SMB customers, which have bolstered demand for its entire range of iPhones.”

Samsung took second place, shipping 62.0 million units for a -12% decline. Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo completed the top five, with each seeing share gains from a beleaguered Huawei (including Honor). Xiaomi grew 31% to 43.4 million units, Oppo grew 15% to 34.7 million units, while Vivo shipped 32.1 million units for 14% growth. 

Huawei (including Honor) came in sixth place in quarter four 2020 with 32 million smartphones shipped. It marks the first time in six years that it fell outside the global top five smartphone vendors. For the full year of 2020, Samsung maintained the global leader position, with 20% global market share, Apple came in second place and Huawei (including Honor) remained at top three.

“The second wave of COVID-19 has taken a huge toll, but unlike the first wave, the industry was braced for impact,” saysCanalys Senior Analyst Ben Stanton. “Online fulfillment capacity has already been scaled, vendors are experienced at virtual launch events, and important channel meetings, such as device range reviews, are now comfortably done in a virtual setting. And in some instances, smartphones are even being purchased to assist with working-from-home and remote learning. The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines is also boosting business confidence for 2021, allowing them to plan and invest. Going forward, there will be obvious economic ripple effects as government stimulus fades, and there are ongoing concerns around new virus strains. Overall though, sentiment in the industry is positive, and 2021 will see the smartphone market rebound after a 7% decline in 2020.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.