Global smartphone market grows 4.7% in Q4 2020 but COVID-19 causes 6.7% YoY decline

LONDON (January 28, 2021) - The global smartphone market continued its recovery in the second half of 2020, ending the year with 4.7% year-over-year growth in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 2019. This is the first time since Q3 2019 that the smartphone market grew YoY in a quarter. However, the strong Q4 performance stands in stark contrast to the severe impact of the global pandemic to the smartphone market in Q1 and Q2 2020 according to Omdia’s latest Smartphone Tracker. 

Global shipments reached 381.1 million units in the quarter – up from 364.0 million units in Q4 2019. Quarter-over-quarter, shipments increased 6.7 percent from 357.3 million units in Q3 2020.

For the year, shipments reached 1.294 billion units, down 6.7 percent from the 1.387 billion units shipped in 2019. 

Year on Year Shipments


PR-Q4-Preliminary Smartphone 1

Top 10 Shipments per manufacturer

PR-Q4-Preliminary Smartphone 2

Apple was the leading OEM in Q4’20 shipping 84.5 million units, up 20.5 percent compared to Q4 2019. For the year, Apple shipped 204 million units or 4.6 percent more than in 2019.  Apple shipping its first ever 5G-enabled iPhone helped unit shipment growth in Q4, which was critical in helping Apple generate a modest year-on-year growth.

Apple today announced the highest iPhone revenue in a quarter, increased 17% year over year. This was caused by the delay of the iPhone, which was normally released in the third quarter, but this year iPhone 12 series started shipping in the fourth quarter. In fact, the combined revenue of the third and fourth quarters increased 3% compared to the previous year.

In second spot, Samsung shipped 62.2 million units, down 11.1 percent compared to Q4 2019. Samsung’s annual shipments reached 257 million units, the lowest volume since 2013. The pandemic had a significant impact on Samsung in Q1 and Q2 of last year, leaving the company too big a hill to climb to exit the year in positive territory, compared to 2019. Samsung could also not sustain momentum from a positive Q3 2020 into Q4. 

Xiaomi reached third place in Q4 2020, shipping 47.2 million units – up 44.5 percent compared to Q4 2019. For the year, the company shipped 148.3 million units, the biggest shipments ever for Xiaomi. Compared to 2019, Xiaomi was able to increase unit shipments by 19.6 percent. The company continues to inch closer to the 50 million units per quarter mark, which has only been breached by Samsung, Apple and Huawei in recent quarters.

Oppo and vivo battled for fourth place in the quarter, with vivo shipping 34.5 million units – slightly more than the 34.1 million units Oppo shipped in Q4. Both companies grew quarterly shipments significantly compared to Q4 2019 – Oppo grew 32.1 percent and vivo 40.8 percent YoY.

For the year, vivo shipped 107.9 million units, 2.5 percent more than the 105.2 million units in 2019. Oppo, on the other hand, saw shipments decline five percent, from 110.5 million units in 2019 to 105 million units in 2020. 

Xiaomi, vivo and Oppo are beneficiaries of Huawei’s challenging 2020. 

Huawei continues to feel the impact of US sanctions on its smartphone business – forcing the company out of the Top 5 OEMs. 

For the quarter, Huawei’s shipments declined 42.9 percent YoY, from 56 million units in Q4 2019 to 32 million units in Q4 2020. For the year, Huawei lost the second spot to Apple. The shipments declined 21.6 percent, from 240.6 million units in 2019 to 188.7 million units in 2020. 

There continues to be no end in sight for the US technology ban which would ease pressure on the company. Considering the uncertainty of its smartphone business future, the company sold off its Honor sub-brand in Q4 2020. The new entity just announced its first device as well as partnerships with suppliers like Qualcomm, indicating that stand-alone Honor is not subject to the same ban as its previous parent company.

Realme delivered another significant growth quarter, growing shipments by 96.3 percent to 14.3 million units, up from 7.3 million units in Q4 2019. The company ended the year shipping 39.1 million units, up 55.9 percent from the 25.1 million units it shipped in Q4 2019. Almost 29 million units of its annual total shipped in the second half of the year, driven by the company’s focus on the Indian market and increasing expansion in Europe.

Motorola’s shipments declined by 5.1 percent in the quarter, from 10.3 million units in Q4 2019 to 9.8 million units in Q4 2020. For the year, shipments for Motorola declined 9.7 percent, from 36.9 million units in 2019 to 33.3 million units in 2020.

LG grew unit shipments by 5.2 percent in the quarter, 8.2 million this past quarter compared to 7.8 million units in Q4 2019. However, for the year shipments declined 12.0 percent, to 29.7 million units from 33.7 million units in 2019. In 2018 the company had shipped 44.2 million units. Even though LG has come forward with innovative smartphone designs and concepts, the company is not able to benefit from Huawei’s decline and improve its position in the market like other OEMs are able to.

Rounding out the Top 10 is iTel. iTel is a sub brand of Transsion holdings, which also runs Tecno and Infinix brands. iTel shipped 8.2 million units in the quarter, up 154.3 percent compared to the 3.2 million units it shipped in Q4 2019. For the year, Tecno grew units to 23.2 million, up 42 percent compared to 2019 shipments of 16.4 million units.

Jusy Hong, Senior Research Manager, Wireless Devices Components & Devices at Omdia, commented: “As the global smartphone market matures, the competitiveness of low-end smartphones is leading the volume growth. Chinese OEMs, including Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo and Transsion holdings whose presence in the overseas market was insignificant in the past, are rapidly increasing their volume with the competitiveness of low-end smartphones.”




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