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Sales of premium smartphones outpace market

More phone buyers opted for higher-end smartphones last year, new figures show.

The global market for smartphones with a wholesale price of over $400 grew by 24% from the previous year, outpacing the 7% growth in overall smartphone sales, according to Counterpoint Research’s Market Pulse Service.

As a proportion of the overall market, the premium segment accounted for a record 27% of sales.

iPhone 12

Among the factors driving this growth were replacement demand for 5G models and the ongoing shortage of components which led the major brands to prioritise premium segment devices.

Apple took the top slot in each of the six global regions covered and reached the 60% sales share mark for the first time since 2017, driven by strong 5G upgrades for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series. The delayed launch of Apple devices in 2020 also shifted some demand to 2021.

Samsung’s sales were up 6% year-on-year in the premium segment, but the manufacturer lost market share. The S21 performed better than the pandemic-hit S20, while the Galaxy Z Fold and the Flip series, which were launched in the second half of 2021, also performed well, especially in South Korea, North America and Western Europe. However, Samsung’s performance was dented by factors including the lack of a new Note series and component shortages hitting supply.

In terms of cellular access technology, 5G has now become a standard offering across the premium segment but consumers are still buying premium 4G models including the older iPhones — 11 and SE 2020 — and the Samsung S20 FE. As these product lines transition to 5G in 2022 and 5G also starts to make inroads into developing regions, the share of LTE will decrease further, Counterpoint said.

Looking ahead, falling prices for foldables are expected to boost sales of premium smartphones and Counterpoint expects the premium segment to continue to outpace the growth in the global smartphone market.

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