Apple helped the smartphone market end a terrible 2020 on a positive note

Apple helped the smartphone market end a terrible 2020 on a positive note
While it's definitely a little early for market intelligence firms like Canalys, Gartner, Counterpoint Research, or IDC to release their detailed Q4 2020 and full-year smartphone sales reports, Digitimes Research is already out with a few key numbers and stats.

For starters, the company's latest estimates put the global mobile industry's 2020 decline at 8.8 percent compared to the previous year, which isn't exactly shocking given the countless research papers compiled over the last 12 months or so that warned of the catastrophic impact the coronavirus pandemic had on worldwide smartphone demand.

In total, 1.24 billion smartphone units were reportedly shipped around the world last year, of which anywhere between 280 and 300 million devices came with 5G support, up from only around 20 mil back in 2019. That's certainly an encouraging progress for a market segment that's still fairly young and immature, and it almost goes without saying that 5G-enabled handsets are widely expected to continue growing in popularity in 2021 and beyond, especially as more and more low-cost models become available in Western territories.

Following three very tough quarters, the overall smartphone industry recovered... a little during the final three months of 2020, registering a "single-digit" year-on-year hike in global shipments. That came on the heels of a massive 20 percent hit in Q1, as well as another "double-digit" decline between April and June, followed by a smaller Q3 dip. 

It remains to be seen if the market will be able to carry the positive trend of the recently concluded holiday season into the January - March 2021 timeframe, although considering how bad those Q1 2020 numbers looked, it definitely seems like there's no way to go but up now.

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The same probably goes for Samsung's sales figures, which were down by an unspecified double-digit rate in 2020 compared to 2019. Nonetheless, the chaebol unsurprisingly managed to finish the year in first place among global smartphone vendors, ahead of Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo.

That's right, Apple impressively edged out Huawei, which let us remind you was ranked first in Q2 2020, registering however an overall double-digit decline of its own for the entire year.

Worldwide iPhone shipments, meanwhile, rose by more than 10 percent between 2019 and 2020, which is quite a remarkable growth owed in large part to the incredible initial popularity of Cupertino's first-ever 5G-capable device roster.

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