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Samsung is the commanding leader of the 5G smartphone market, but will that matter next year?

Samsung is the commanding leader of the 5G smartphone market, but will that matter next year?
While companies like Apple and Google are in no rush to join the fledgling 5G smartphone market, Samsung has certainly hit the ground running, copiously dominating the global shipments of these high-speed handsets that are however not particularly useful for 99 percent of the world's mobile consumers right now.

The overall leader of mobile device sales managed to capture no less than 74 percent of the 5G segment between July and September, according to an IHS Markit report relayed by New Electronics. That basically means three in four 5G-enabled phones sold worldwide in Q3 2019 were members of Samsung's extensive Galaxy family, with the Note 10+ 5G alone accounting for half of a commanding 3.2 million unit total.

That's right, Samsung apparently shipped 1.6 million Note 10 Plus devices capable of reaching 5G speeds between the late August release of that 6.8-inch powerhouse and the end of September. The other 1.6 million shipments came from a 5G-equipped variant of the smaller Galaxy Note 10 that's only available in Korea, as well as the "ancient" Galaxy S10 5G and a few weeks of mid-range Galaxy A90 sales. Technically, there was also the Galaxy Fold, but we don't think that limited edition of a very divisive product made much of an impact in the grand scheme of things.

Speaking of the grand scheme, IHS expects 5G smartphone shipments to reach a grand total of 13.5 million units this year after a Q3 tally of 4.3 million. To put that number in context, the smartphone market as a whole topped 350 million units during 2019's third quarter and 5G handset sales are forecasted to jump all the way up to 253 million in 2020. That means Samsung's early lead, while undeniably important and impressive, could be rapidly weakened or even altogether eradicated within less than a year.

Yes, we're thinking primarily about Apple, but many other companies are counting on the expansion of 5G networks to help boost their numbers, from LG to Xiaomi, Huawei, Motorola, and even mobile industry zombies like Sony or HTC. For the time being, LG seems decently positioned to benefit from next year's big 5G surge, selling a combined 700,000 units of its early 5G-enabled phones in the second and third quarter of 2019.

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