Apple regains No. 1 smartphone-maker crown from Samsung

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iPhone lineup 2021
This is the first time Apple has achieved the milestone since 2016.
Photo: Denis Cherkashin/Getty Images CC

The success of the iPhone 12 once again made Apple’s the world’s top smartphone maker in terms of sales, research firm Gartner says.

Provided the firm’s figures are accurate, this will be the first time in half a decade that Apple ranked No. 1. It means 5G-enabled iPhones fought off stiff competition from its longtime frenemy.

Overall, Samsung outsold Apple with a total of 253 million handsets in 2020. Apple, meanwhile, sold an estimated 199.8 million. That gives Samsung a global market share of 18.8% to Apple’s 14.8%.

Where things get notable, however, is in the last quarter of 2020. According to Gartner, Apple sold 79.9 million iPhones to Samsung’s 62.1 million handsets. That means Apple carved out 20.8% of the market, while Samsung managed 16.2%.

Along with Apple’s success in the quarter, Samsung was also squeezed on the other end by low-cost handset-makers snapping up some of its market share. Xiaomi came in third place for Q4.

How the top smartphone vendors sold in Q4 2020
How the top smartphone vendors sold in Q4 2020.
Photo: Gartner

Meanwhile, Huawei continued its massive slide, with Gartner writing:

“Huawei recorded the highest decline among the top five smartphone vendors which made it lose the No. 2 position to Apple in 2020. The impact of the ban on use of Google applications on Huawei’s smartphones was detrimental to Huawei’s performance in the year and negatively affected sales.”

To be fair, the handsets Samsung released in Q4 2020 were lower-priced devices like the Galaxy A42 5G. Its next big flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy S21 series, didn’t debut until January 2021. Apple, on the other hand, released the iPhone 12 series in Q4 2020.

You’d therefore expect Apple to get a nice sales bump and increase its market share. But the success of the iPhone 12 appears to have allowed Apple to push through a Samsung sales wall it hasn’t been able to breach for a few years now. The last time Apple ranked as the top smartphone vendor came in the fourth quarter of 2016. The iPhone 12 is, previous reports have claimed, Apple’s best-selling iPhone in years.

Source: Gartner