Apple overtook Samsung to become top smartphone vendor in Q4

The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini

Apple’s decision to postpone the launch of the iPhone 12 helped it usurp Samsung as the top global smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter of 2020, Gartner analysis has found.

The last time Apple held the prestigious title was in the fourth quarter of 2016, following the September launch of the iPhone 7 range.

However, last year’s decision to move the annual iPhone launch date from September to October managed to help the tech giant to record double-digit year-on-year growth of 14.9% for Q4 2020, according to Gartner.

Apple managed to sell close to 200 million smartphone units in total last year, surpassing Huawei which sold 182 million units. Samsung, which retained the number one spot, sold 253 million smartphones throughout the 12 month period.

Although Samsung still dominates with 18.8% of the smartphone market, this is a drop of 0.4% compared to 2019. This is despite the tech giant launching its most recent range of flagship smartphones two months earlier than usual in an effort to steal market share from Huawei.

The Shenzhen-based company lost 2.1% of its smartphone market share between 2019 and 2020, while Apple’s market share grew by 2.2% for the same period, from 12.6% to 14.8%.

Apple’s success was recorded amid a difficult year for the smartphone industry, which saw a 12.5% decline in global sales for the full 2020, with a 5.4% downturn in the fourth quarter alone.


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According to Gartner senior research director Anshul Gupta, this market decline was minimised by “the sales of more 5G smartphones and lower-to-mid-tier smartphones”.

“Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter,” he said.

Gupta added that 2021 smartphone sales will be boosted by “the rising demand for affordable 5G smartphones outside China”.

“In 2021, the availability of lower end 5G smartphones and innovative features will be deciding factors for end users to upgrade their existing smartphones,” he said.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.