iPhone 12 5G supercycle leads to historic quarter for Apple; Huawei collapses in Q4 2020

iPhone 12 5G supercycle leads to historic quarter for Apple; Huawei collapses in Q4 2020
Global smartphone brands are in the process of reporting their earnings for the most recent quarter and research firm IDC has marked the occasion by publishing its latest smartphone market report.

Apple experienced the best quarter in the history of the smartphone

Between October and December 2020, manufacturers shipped 385.9 million smartphones around the world, an increase of 4.3% versus the 369.9 million units shipped in the final quarter of 2019.

Apple experienced phenomenal success thanks to the iPhone 12 series, which started a so-called supercycle and led to shipments of 90.1 million iPhones. That number is up 22.2% year-on-year and is important for several reasons.

On the one hand, it resulted in a market share of 23.4% during the quarter, an all-time high for Apple that pushed it into first place on the global stage ahead of arch-rival Samsung.

On the other, the number represents an all-time shipments record for Apple. The previous iPhone record was set in the final quarter of 2017 when 77.3 million devices were shipped following the iPhone 7 launched.

Apple’s 90.1 million iPhone shipments in Q4 2020 also makes it the best quarter for a single vendor in the history of the smartphone. In other words, no other company has ever shipped more devices in a single quarter.

Samsung’s Galaxy A series saw success in all regions

Samsung finished the quarter in second place with 73.9 million units, a year-on-year increase of 6.2%. In terms of market share, the South Korean brand accounted for 19.1% of all shipments.

This strong performance during the quarter was attributed to the Galaxy A series, which covers both the budget and mid-range segments and experienced growth in all regions.

How Samsung performed in the lucrative flagship segment wasn’t detailed, although the brand itself reported an 11% revenue decline for its smartphone business in the quarter, suggesting its high-end phones weren’t too popular.

Xiaomi and Oppo continued to eat up Huawei’s market share

Xiaomi maintained its position as the world’s third-largest smartphone brand in the October-December quarter. It achieved a market share of 11.2% thanks to shipments of 43.3 million units and growth of 32%.

Oppo followed in a distant fourth place with 33.8 million units and a market share of 8.8%, meaning it grew 10.7% year-on-year. Both of these Chinese brands are benefitting from Huawei’s demise.

Huawei, which was the second-largest smartphone brand in 2019, occupied the fifth position in Q4 2020 with shipments of 32.3 million units. That’s down a dramatic 42.4% from the 56.2 million phones shipped a year earlier.

There are no signs US trade restrictions will be eased soon, so Huawei is expected to continue its fall from grace in 2021 and should exit the top 5 this quarter once it falls behind Vivo.

How did LG and Motorola perform last quarter?

While IDC doesn’t publish shipment data for the bottom half of the top 10, research firm Omdia does. There are some differences in the numbers, but it gives us a good idea about how other brands performed.

The most notable ones towards the bottom of the table are perhaps Motorola and LG, which occupied 8th and 9th place respectively with shipments of 9.8 million and 8.2 million units.

Motorola experienced a small decrease of 5.1% during the holiday quarter while LG saw its shipments increase by 5.2%. Both brands have successfully maintained their positions throughout the year, but neither has been able to benefit from Huawei’s collapse.

Moving forward, both LG and Motorola are at risk of being overtaken by lesser-known brand iTel, which shipped 8.2 million phones last quarter and recorded incredible growth of 154.3% year-on-year. The good news is that Huawei's decline means neither brand is likely, at least for the time being, to exit the top 10. 

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