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Major shift in smartphone market - Huawei drops out, Samsung regains top spot

A major shift is occurring amongst the top smartphone vendors as the market continues its recovery, according to IDC. 

After suffering heavy declines under the increased weight of U.S. sanctions, Huawei is finally out of the top 5 for the first time in many years. 

Taking advantage of this are Chinese vendors Xiaomi, OPPO, and vivo, which all grew share over last quarter landing them in 3rd, 4th, and 5th places globally during the first quarter of 2021, with 14.1%, 10.8%, and 10.1% share, respectively. 

According to the analyst firm, 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. 

Samsung regained the top spot in 1Q21 with impressive shipments of 75.3 million and 21.8% share. The new S21 series did well for Samsung, mainly thanks to a successful pricing strategy shaving off $200 from last year's flagship launch. 

Apple, with continued success of its iPhone 12 series, lost some share from their very strong holiday quarter but still shipped an impressive 55.2 million iPhones grabbing 16.0% share.

"While Huawei continues its decline in the smartphone market, we’ve also learned that LG is exiting the market altogether," says Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. 

"Most of LG's volume was in the Americas with North America accounting for over 50% of its volume and Latin America another 30%," he says. 

"Despite the vendor losing ground in recent years, they still had 9% of the North America market and 6% of Latin America. Their exit creates some immediate opportunity 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 share opportunity."

According to IDC, the pace of recovery for the smartphone market accelerated in the first quarter of 2021, with 25.5% year-over-year shipment growth. 

Smartphone vendors shipped nearly 346 million devices during the quarter. 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 amidst 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," says 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."