iPhone solidly beats rivals to take No. 1 smartphone spot

iPhone solidly beats rivals to take No. 1 smartphone spot


iPhone Q4 2021: Apple solidly beats all rivals to take #1 smartphone spot
iPhone shipments in Q4 2021 beat out every competitor.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac/Rodnae Productions /Pexels

Apple moved more smartphones during the 2021 holiday quarter than any competitor. It outsold Samsung, its nearest competitor, by more than 20%.

That said, the number of iPhones that shipped during Q4 2021 dropped a bit year over year.

iPhone in the Q4 2021 top spot

While Apple doesn‘t reveal exactly how many smartphones it sells, analysts offer estimates. IDC reports that 84.9 million iPhones shipped in the October-through-December quarter, while Counterpoint Research says the figure was 81.5 million.

Although the two research firms don’t agree on exactly the how many iOS handsets shipped, they do concur that the number is slightly down from the same quarter of the previous year.

But it’s not because of low demand. “The supply chain and component shortages started to have meaningful impact on the smartphone market as we entered the second half of the year,” said Ryan Reith with IDC.

The number of iPhone units that shipped in Q4 2021 may have declined, but Apple’s revenue went up. It reported Thursday that iPhone revenue in the quarter totaled $71.6 billion. That’s a 9% year-over-year increase.

The seeming disparity comes from more customers buying higher-priced phones, like the new iPhone 13. And those purchases weren’t only in the United States and Europe. “In China, it became the top smartphone brand in Q4 after six years thanks to the iPhone 13, consequently overtaking Samsung as the top smartphone globally in Q4 2021,” noted Counterpoint Research.

2021 was a banner year for iPhone

For all of the year, Counterpoint Research reports that “Apple’s global smartphone shipments grew 18% YoY to reach a record 237.9 million units in 2021 due to strong performance by the iPhone 12 series.”

IDC’s estimate is that 235.7 million iPhone units shipped in 2021, a 15.9% annual increase.

However, that doesn’t put Apple on top. It was in second place in shipments behind Samsung. But the American company doesn’t try to compete in some of the product categories its rival does, especially very low-cost handsets.

Apple is #1… for now

iPhone was top dog during the 2021 holiday shopping quarter, but it’s unlikely to stay there. Apple has outsold Samsung in Q4 during four of the past five years, but Samsung always moves back on top. Much of the reason is product release schedules.

Q4 each year comes right after Apple introduces its new flagship smartphones. A rush of sales follows. But Q1 always sees the launch of Samsung’s own flagship Androids, with the attendant increase in sales.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.