After a steep decline in 2020, global smartphone sales to end users grew 26% in the first quarter of 2021, according to Gartner, Inc. Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users grew 22% year over year.
“The improvement in consumer outlook, sustained learning, and working from home, along with pent-up demand from 2020 boosted sales of smartphones in the first quarter. Consumers started spending on discretionary items as the pandemic situation improved in many parts of the world and markets opened up,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. “However, one cannot ignore that the base for comparison is also lower in 2020 than it was in 2019. This explains the double-digit growth.”
The top three global smartphone vendors maintained their respective positions in the first quarter of 2021 (see Table 1). The launch of mid-priced smartphones, such as phones priced under $150, boosted Samsung’s unit sales globally. The early shipping of its flagship 5G smartphones added to the company’s smartphone sales growth.
Apple moved back into the second position in the first quarter of 2021, after securing the No.1 spot in the fourth quarter of 2020. The launch of its first-ever 5G iPhone led to continued demand in 2021. “5G will continue to be the major growth driver for Apple in 2021. Device upgrades will fuel demand for Apple’s flagship phone throughout the year,” said Gupta.
All of the top five global smartphone vendors registered strong year over year growth over 2020 indicating that the phone market is consolidating around the top five vendors. Chinese smartphone vendors Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo witnessed growing demand for 5G smartphones and capitalized on the opportunities due to weakening sales of Huawei and LG globally in this quarter.
The global chip shortage has not yet impacted the smartphone industry as the demand and supply equilibrium is met. However, this may change in the coming quarters and may result in an increase in the average selling price of smartphones globally.