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Apple back on top after iPhone 12 release

Apple overtook Samsung to become the top smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter of last year, according to new figures from Gartner.

The US manufacturer sold almost 80 million handsets in the final three months of 2020, a rise of 14.9% year-on-year, thanks to the October launch of the iPhone 12 series with 5G connectivity. Its market share for the quarter grew to 20.8%.

iPhone 12 Unboxing

Samsung sold 62 million smartphones, a decrease of 11.8%, and saw its market share drop to 16.2%.

The last time Apple was in the lead was in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The coronavirus pandemic caused supply challenges around the world in 2020, impacting the manufacturing of new handsets, while economic disruption and lockdown restrictions meant that many consumers delayed buying a new phone.

Overall, global sales of smartphones were down 5.4% in the fourth quarter and 12.5% for the full year.

“The sales of more 5G smartphones and lower-to-mid-tier smartphones minimised the market decline in the fourth quarter of 2020,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. “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.”

Red iPhone 12

Samsung retained its number one vendor position in the full year results, but faced tough competition from regional competitors such as Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo as these brands grew more aggressive in global markets, Gartner noted. In 2020, Apple and Xiaomi were the only two smartphone vendors in the top five ranking to record growth.

After the challenges of 2020, Gartner believes that 5G will help to drive sales over the course of this year.

“In 2021, the availability of lower end 5G smartphones and innovative features will be deciding factors for end users to upgrade their existing smartphones,” Gupta said. “The rising demand for affordable 5G smartphones outside China will boost smartphone sales in 2021.”

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