Apple becomes world's biggest smartphone seller with record shipments

Published January 28, 2021
In this 2020 file photo, a man wears a face mask while waiting at an Apple Store before Apple's 5G new iPhone 12 go on sale. — Reuters
In this 2020 file photo, a man wears a face mask while waiting at an Apple Store before Apple's 5G new iPhone 12 go on sale. — Reuters

Apple Inc’s smartphone shipments jumped 22 per cent to record levels in the fourth quarter, making it the world’s biggest seller, while those for Huawei plunged as US sanctions took effect.

An expanded number of models and a new look for the iPhone 12 lineup, Apple’s first 5G-enabled devices, tapped pent up demand for upgrades, especially in China.

Shipments hit 90.1 million phones, a record for any quarter, giving it global market share of 23.4pc, data from research firm IDC showed.

“In China, Apple seized the perfect opportunity to capture Huawei’s market share in the high end, when the latter has essentially not enough supply even though demand for the brand is still there,” said Nicole Peng, who tracks China’s smartphone market at Canalys.

The data comes on the heels of Apple reporting record holiday quarter sales on Wednesday, with revenue crossing $100 billion for the first time.

Sales in Greater China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, surged 57pc.

“We had two of the top three selling smartphones in urban China,” Chief Executive Tim Cook told Reuters in an interview, adding that upgraders in particular had set an all-time record in China.

As is often the case in the fourth quarter when it launches new products, Apple took the top spot from Samsung Electronics.

The South Korean firm saw a 6.2pc year-on-year increase to 73.9 million devices, giving it market share of 19.1pc.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, unsurprisingly, suffered the most pain, with shipments tumbling a record 42.4pc to 32.3 million.

The Chinese tech powerhouse has been battered after the previous US administration blacklisted it on national security grounds, preventing overseas companies from supplying it with key parts including semiconductors.

Huawei is now in early-stage talks to sell its premium smartphone brands P and Mate, two people with direct knowledge of the matter have said, a move that could see the company eventually exit from the high-end smartphone-making business.

According to IDC, it now ranks fifth compared with the No 2 ranking it had only two quarters earlier.

But research firms Counterpoint and Canalys, which also released data on Thursday, pegged Huawei at number six, marking the first time in years that it has fallen out of the top five in their rankings.

China’s Xiaomi Corp, the number three seller, saw its shipments soar 32pc while shipments for fourth-ranked Oppo climbed 10.7pc, according to IDC.

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