Apple claims global smartphone market for first time in 5 years

Company's latest iPhones weren’t even on sale for the entire period

Photo: Apple iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max

During the fourth quarter of 2020, Apple shipped more smartphones than any other company, data by market research firm Gartner showed. According to the estimates, the tech giant shipped nearly 80 million units in the quarter, surpassing all other smartphone makers, including Samsung.

This marks the first time Apple has been atop the smartphone market since 2016, the report said.

Apple’s strong holiday quarter and the new Gartner estimates suggest the company’s family of iPhone 12 devices, with 5G capability and a new external design, is a hit in the marketplace. Those new devices weren’t even on sale for the entire period.

Most importantly, the numbers indicate Apple has weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than its competitors. Global smartphone shipments fell 5.4% in 2020 amid the global coronavirus pandemic, according to Gartner, while Apple’s unit sales grew by 3.3%. 

A competing report from IDC released last month showed Apple shipped 90.1 million phones in the quarter. In terms of smartphone shipments, that’s the single best quarter for any company, IDC’s report said. 

The difference in the Apple shipment numbers comes from the fact that the company doesn’t report unit sales for its devices. However, the company said revenue from iPhones grew by 17% in the fourth quarter of calendar 2020 on a year-over-year basis to $65.6bn, which makes it easy to estimate the number of smartphones sold. 

And while Apple can be quite happy of the data, the biggest shipments decline came from Huawei, which saw unit sales drop by 24.1% in 2020, as the Chinese smartphone maker struggles with US sanctions that have hampered its handset business.

Samsung doesn’t face the same challenge but still saw shipments fall 14.6% last year, according to Gartner. Samsung, however, still shipped the most devices over a full year.

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