Apple iPhone hits record US market share as flagship demand grows

Apple iPhone hits record US market share as flagship demand grows
The iPhone 12 and Galaxy S20 FE kept the US smartphone market afloat in the final quarter of 2020 and thanks to a new report we now have a more detailed look at the performance of each brand.

The iPhone's US market share reached an all-time high in December

Counterpoint Research
has revealed that US smartphone brands sold, not shipped, a total of 14.9 million devices in December. That’s in-line with December 2019, but there were some big changes to how these sales were distributed.

Apple drove the US smartphone segment in December and increased its sales by almost one-third thanks to strong iPhone 12 5G demand. That gave the iPhone a record market share of 64% in the final month of 2020.

In December 2019, for reference, Apple’s popular iPhone lineup accounted for a respectable 49% of US smartphone sales. Between January and September 2020, on the other hand, Apple’s market share hovered around 45%.

Once the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro hit shelves in late October, Apple’s US share rocketed to 52%. The subsequent iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max launch in November took it to 64%, which is the level Apple maintained in December.

Moving into 2021, Apple’s expected to experience a gradual drop in sales as the iPhone 12 series starts to show its age and newer devices from rival manufacturers hit shelves. But the brand is starting the year at a much higher level than usual.

Samsung continues to perform well too 

Samsung was the only other brand that continued to perform well on a year-on-year basis in the US smartphone industry last quarter. It successfully maintained its market share of 20% in December despite strong iPhone 12 demand.

Like Apple, Samsung’s share in November was identical to its December result. But in October the South Korean brand accounted for a more impressive 26% of total US smartphone sales.

As revealed in Counterpoint’s previous report, this performance was mainly credited to the Galaxy S20 FE’s debut in October rather than strong performance of the premium Galaxy Note 20 series.

Samsung has strong momentum leading into 2021 and should experience a noticeable sales boost starting late January thanks to the arrival of the Galaxy S21 series. It's worth noting that January and February are historically slow months for the US industry, though.

Premium smartphones are increasingly popular in the US

The US smartphone market as a whole is increasingly about so-called premium and ultra-premium devices. The former includes all devices priced between $600-800 and the latter covers any products priced above $800.

These categories accounted for almost two-thirds of US smartphone sales in December and experienced combined year-on-year growth of 54%, a shift that’s attributed to great trade-in promotions at carriers and marketing around 5G.

This is good news for Samsung and Apple because premium devices command much higher profit margins, but the other visible trend is negative for virtually all other brands.

Over time, the US smartphone segment has consolidated itself around four brands — Apple, Samsung, LG, and Motorola — with other players competing for a much smaller slice of sales.

But in the past twelve months, more US consumers have shifted towards either Apple or Samsung, leaving Motorola with a considerably smaller share and LG struggling to keep its usual 10% slice.

Google, on the other hand, saw Pixel sales collapse; Alcatel is facing headwinds as demand for budget phones shrinks; ZTE has seen its US market share almost completely evaporate.

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