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IDC: Smartphone shipments up 25.5% in first quarter of 2021

The preliminary data from the International Data Corp. (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker show the smartphone market bounced back with 25.5% year-over-year shipment growth in the first quarter of 2021 (1Q21). Smartphone vendors shipped nearly 346 million devices during the quarter.

With shipments of 75.3 million and 21.8% share, Samsung regained the top spot with Apple in second with 55.2 million iPhones grabbing a 16% share. Huawei has been edged out of the Top 5 as its consumer business sharply declined when the United States under former President Donald Trump banned the Shenzhen-based company citing security threats.

Samsung’s S21 series proved a hit which IDC attributes to pricing strategy “shaving off $200 from last year’s flagship launch.” Apple’s iPhone 12 phones propelled the brand to the top last quarter of last year.

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According to IDC, the strong growth came from all regions with the greatest gains coming from China and Asia Pacific (excluding Japan and China). As the two largest regions globally, accounting for half of all global shipments, these regions experienced 30% and 28% year-over-year growth, respectively.


“The recovery is proceeding faster than we expected, clearly demonstrating a healthy appetite for smartphones globally. But amid this phenomenal growth, we must remember that we are comparing against one of the worst quarters in smartphone history, 1Q20, the start of the pandemic when the bulk of the supply chain was at a halt and China was in full lockdown,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “However, the growth is still very real; when compared to two years ago (1Q19), shipments are 11% higher. The growth is coming from years of repressed refresh cycles with a boost from 5G. But above all, it is a clear illustration of how smartphones are becoming an increasingly important element of our everyday life — a trend that is expected to continue as we head into a post-pandemic world with many consumers carrying forward the new smartphone use cases which emerged from the pandemic.”

As the smartphone market is recovering, a major shift is happening in the competitive landscape. Taking advantage Huawei’s exit in the top spot are the Chinese vendors Xiaomi, Oppo, and vivo, which all grew share over last quarter landing them in 3rd, 4th, and 5th places globally during the quarter with 14.1%, 10.8%, and 10.1% share, respectively. All three vendors are increasing their focus in international markets where Huawei had grown its share in recent years. In the low- to mid-priced segment, it is these vendors that are gaining the most from Huawei’s decline, while most of the high-end share is going to Apple and Samsung.

IDC noted the void LG will leave behind as it announced its exit in the smartphone business.

“Most of LG’s volume was in the Americas with North America accounting for over 50% of its volume and Latin America another 30%,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “Despite the vendor losing ground in recent years, they still had 9% of the North American market and 6% of Latin America. Their exit creates some immediate opportunities for other brands. With competition being more cutthroat than ever, especially at the low-end, it is safe to assume that 6-10 brands are eyeing this shared opportunity.”