Gartner has come out with its report on worldwide smartphone sales in the final quarter of 2020. A key point to note is that the Gartner Report refers to smartphone sales rather than shipments. And interestingly, while the report confirms the findings of some other agencies, it also reveals some new facts:

gartner confirms iphone domination in q4 2020 - smartphones
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Smartphone sales dipped in Q4 2020

While IDC had said that the final quarter of 2020 had witnessed 4.3 percent growth in the smartphone segment, Gartner paints a slightly grim picture. As per the report, smartphone sales actually shrank by 5 percent in Q4 2020 as compared to Q4 2019. In all, 384.62 million smartphones were sold in Q4 2020 as compared to 406.64 in Q4 2019. This is a bit of a surprise to us given all the talk about “holiday season spending.”

Apple rides high in Q4 2020, replaces Samsung as Smartphone Top Dog

The Gartner report, like others, confirms Apple had a very successful Q4 2020. The report attributes this success to the launch of the 5G iPhone 12 series. It is interesting to note that 5G gets a few references in the excerpt of the report we had access to. In sheer statistical terms, Apple sold 79.94 million smartphones in Q4 2020, up from 69.55 million in Q4 2019. This gave the Cupertino brand a 20.8 percent market share, up from 17.1 percent in Q4 2019, and pushed Samsung to the second spot for the quarter, with sales of 62.11 million and a 16.2 percent market share. The last time Apple topped smartphone sales globally for a quarter was in Q4 2016!

Samsung stumbles, Huawei falls

Apple might have had impressive sales, but two of the brands that were among the top two for a while suffered declines. Samsung saw its sales dip from 70.40 million in Q4 2019 to 62.19 million in Q4 2020, a dip of 1.8 percent. In sheer numbers, it is intriguing to note that Samsung’s share dipped by 8.21 million units, even as Apple’s rose by 10.39 million – the figures are not very far apart. But the biggest dip in fortune hit Huawei. With sales stopped in the US and problems with Google, the brand that had at one stage seemed set to challenge Apple and Samsung for the smartphone numero uno title, slipped to fifth in Q4 2020 with sales of 34.31 million, down from 58.30 million, a staggering fall of 41.1 percent. The Chinese brand’s market share fell from 14.1 percent to 8.9 percent!

Xiaomi surges with the fastest growth in top five

The report also confirms the rise of Xiaomi in Q4 2020. The brand was the fastest-growing brand in the top five in Q4 2020. It took third place in the global market behind Apple and Samsung with sales of 43.43 million, a 33.9 percent increase from Q4 2019, giving it a market share of 11.3 percent.

Oppo takes the fourth spot

It might not have got the sort of figures that Apple and Xiaomi did, but Oppo had a very impressive quarter as well. The Chinese brand recorded 34.37 million sales, up from 30.45 million in Q4 2019, a growth rate of 12.9 percent, allowing it to edge ahead of Huawei (34.31 million).

“Others” remain significant

Unlike in the Indian market, where the top five brands dominate the market to the extent of generating more than eighty percent of the total sales, the “others” outside the top five remain a formidable presence globally. In fact, as per Gartner, the “others” (including OnePlus, Vivo, Nokia, Motorola, and the like) accounted for more sales in Q4 2019 than Apple did, with 130.44 million units, giving them a share of 33.9 percent. Mind you, this was down from 145.48 million in Q4 2019! But still, it is good to see smaller players contributing more to the overall market.

Samsung remains number one overall in 2020, but not many grew

The report also included the overall sales figures for 2020. And the overall picture was not a rosy one, with sales declining by 12.5 percent as compared to 2019. Samsung continued to be the number one player with a share of 18.8 percent, but its sales dipped by 14.6 percent. As in the quarter, Huawei’s sales drop was the most dramatic, with the brand falling to 182.61 million units from 240.61 units in Q4 2019. Indeed, Apple and Xiaomi were the only brands to record an increase in sales in 2020, with even Oppo taking a hit over the year. For the record, the top five brands for the year were: Samsung, Apple, Huawei (which actually had a very strong Q1 and Q2), Xiaomi, and Oppo.

Lower and mid-tier smartphones arrested decline

The report states that sales of lower and mid-tier smartphones, as well as increased sales of 5G phones, “minimized” the market decline in the final quarter of the year. Although we do not have access to detailed statistics, we assume these also boosted the market share of the likes of Xiaomi, which has a number of offerings in that segment.

5G and “Pro camera” played a role…

In an interesting perspective, a Gartner senior director said that “Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter.

…and “affordable 5G” will boost sales in 2021

A Gartner senior director is quoted in the report saying that the rising demand for “affordable 5G smartphones outside China” will play a crucial role in smartphone sales in 2021. As we said, 5G plays a major role in that report. It is clear that the analysts at Gartner expect 5G to do great things in 2021.

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