Motorola pulled off an unprecedented feat in the US smartphone market in 2021

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Motorola pulled off an unprecedented feat in the US smartphone market in 2021
Unlike the global mobile industry, which has gone through a lot of notable changes at or near the top of its vendor chart in the last few years, the US smartphone market is generally much steadier and frankly, more boring in terms of the companies leading the sales ranks.

Because highly successful international brands like Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Realme, and Huawei have no official retail presence stateside, Apple and Samsung are essentially unchallenged in their regional gold and silver medal positions respectively.

The battle for silver might be heating up soon

When it comes to the final spot on the podium, LG had held a relatively small but constant advantage over Motorola for several years before the Korean tech giant made the shocking decision of abandoning the smartphone market in early 2021.

With Alcatel, OnePlus, and Google unable to launch a very convincing attack on the bronze medal position, Motorola seized this unexpected opportunity and almost instantly took LG's place. Thanks to a number of factors including but not limited to a "full portfolio, ability to ramp up volumes, and low return rates", the Lenovo-owned brand cracked the podium in April 2021, consolidating and even improving its status as the third largest smartphone vendor in the US every month until the year ended.

As such, it definitely doesn't come as a surprise that Motorola ranked third in full-year US smartphone sales for the first time ever. Of course, that doesn't make the achievement any less impressive, especially when looking at the slowly shrinking gap between the market's silver and bronze medal holders.

Granted, said gap is likely to have widened after Samsung's successful Galaxy S22 series release late last month, but Motorola itself reportedly managed to "maintain its momentum" in Q1 2022.

Motorola's ambitions are only growing larger

The year's opening quarter is not yet finished, so it's impossible to know if the number three US player will continue to boost the rising 10 percent share it accounted for at the very end of 2021. Looking ahead, what's crystal clear is that Motorola will try to provide stiff competition for Apple and Samsung in the premium market segment with devices like the hot new Edge+ (2022) and possibly the "Frontier" beast as well.

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For the time being, the brand's strength comes primarily from low-cost Moto G Stylus, G Power, or G Pure models and the nation's "large US prepaid channels." If the aforementioned 10 percent overall market share fails to impress you, perhaps you'll feel differently about the 28 percent slice of sales Motorola ate up in 2021 through the likes of Verizon Prepaid, Metro by T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Boost Mobile.

What's arguably even more remarkable is the company's number two spot in the sub-$400 segment of the US smartphone market, although it's not entirely clear if Apple's $399 second-gen iPhone SE was in fact included in that category.

All in all, Motorola's US sales more than doubled last year, jumping an incredible 131 percent compared to 2020, and while the death of LG's mobile division certainly played a crucial part in that, the full growth picture is definitely more complex than what meets the eye.

After all, Samsung could have greatly benefited from its arch-rival's retirement as well, and at least at first glance, that simply doesn't seem to be the case. Meanwhile, gold medalist and heavyweight champion Apple can certainly be happy about its massive advantage over Samsung at the end of 2021, although its own share numbers in the latter stages of the year didn't quite hit the late 2020 peaks either.

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