Samsung Leads as Global Smartphone Shipments Record 27 Percent YoY Growth in Q1 2021

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Bhawani Singh
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Global smartphone shipments recorded a 27 percent year-on-year (YoY) growth in the first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021), says a report by market research firm Canalys. Samsung retained the lion’s share of the worldwide smartphone market, Apple took the second spot, and Chinese technology companies Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo completed the top five in that order. Canalys said that some brands have deprioritised device shipments in India, which is grappling with a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, and have instead shifted focus on recovering regions such as Europe.

The report by Canalys said that the worldwide smartphone shipments reached 347 million units in the first quarter of 2021. Samsung was the single largest smartphone vendor with 76.5 million shipments. Its 22 percent market share remains unchanged from last year. Apple shipped 52.4 million iPhones and registered a 1 percent YoY growth with a 15 percent share. Canalys attributed Apple’s growth to a strong performance by the iPhone 12 models and an even better demand for the older iPhone 11, which is said to have made up for a lower-than-expected demand for the iPhone 12 mini.

Xiaomi clocked its best-ever single quarter performance, shipping 49 million units and registering a growth of 62 percent with a market share of 14 percent, according to the report.

“In addition to great product value, Xiaomi is now also making strides to recruit local talent, become more channel-friendly and lead in high-end innovation, as seen with the Mi 11 Ultra and its recent foldable, the Mi Mix Fold, said Canalys Research Manager Ben Stanton. He added that Xiaomi’s sheer volume gives distributors a better opportunity to make money than rival brands.

The fourth and fifth places went to Oppo (11 percent market share) and Vivo (10 percent market share) that shipped 37.6 million and 36 million units, respectively. Other smartphone brands took a cumulative market share of 28 percent with 95.9 million shipments. This also includes former world number one Huawei, a casualty of US sanctions that grabbed the seventh place with a shipment of 18.6 million units in Q1 2021.

The first quarter of 2021 also witnessed LG’s exit from the smartphone business. Canalys Analyst Sanyam Chaurasia said that the development was “symbolic of a new era in the smartphone market, and it proves that aggressive pricing and channel strategy are more important than hardware differentiation in the modern day”. He said that LG, which held the majority of its share in the Americas (80 percent of its total in 2020), shutting shop means new opportunities for Motorola, TCL, Nokia, and ZTE at price points below $200 (roughly Rs. 15,000).

As mentioned, regions like Europe, which are recovering better from COVID-19, were the drivers of shipment growth in Q1 2021. And regions including India — in the thick of the pandemic — were deprioritised by some brands.

Canalys said that supply of critical components, such as chipsets, has quickly become a major concern, and will hinder smartphone shipments in the coming quarters. The shortage will also give “global brands more power to negotiate allocation, putting further pressure on smaller brands and could force many to follow LG out of the door”.

We dive into all things Apple — iPad Pro, iMac, Apple TV 4K, and AirTag — this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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