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Huawei temporarily edged past Samsung to become largest smartphone brand

The sale of smartphones declined 20.2% in the first quarter of the year, with Samsung, Huawei and Oppo the worst hit, according to new analysis.

As Covid-19 shut down economies around the world, manufacturers, retailers and developers were all hit, contributing to significant performance declines across the top smartphone brands.

The only brand in the analysis to buck the trend was Xiaomi; Gartner said strong sales of Redmi devices in international markets – paired with an “aggressive” online channel focus –  led Xiaomi to outperform expectations.

Topping the table, Samsung’s smartphone sales declined 22.7% in Q1, however the company maintained a leading market share of 18.5%.

“The decline could have been much worse,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner. “Samsung’s limited presence in China and the location of its manufacturing facilities outside of China prevented a steeper fall.”

Huawei recorded the worst performance among the top five global smartphone vendors, with its sales down 27.3% year on year, to 42.5 million units. Its market share stood at 14.2% at the end of the quarter, placing it second behind Samsung.

“Huawei will have a challenging year,” said Gupta. “It has developed the Huawei Mobile Service ecosystem, but with the lack of popular Google apps and Google Play store, Huawei is unlikely to attract new smartphone buyers in international markets.”

Apple was also impacted by supply constraints and store closures although its sales declined by a relatively tame 8.2%, totalling 41 million units.

Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner said: “Apple had a strong start to the year thanks to its new product line up that saw strong momentum globally. If Covid-19 did not happen, the vendor would have likely seen its iPhone sales reached record level in the quarter. Supply chain disruptions and declining consumer spending put a halt to this positive trend in February.

Apple’s ability to serve clients via its online stores and its production returning to near normal levels at the end of March helped recover some of the early positive momentum,” she added.

In the context Oppo’s sales performance, Zimmermann highlighted that to grow market share, its online channel must be strengthened. Oppo’s smartphone sales declined 19.1%.

Samsung has been the world’s largest smartphone brand in the world for years now, at least in terms of units sold. Huawei has been eyeing the number one position, and it aimed to defeat the South Korean firm in 2020. However, those dreams were killed when the US applied trade sanctions against Huawei. Despite trade sanctions, it is being reported that Huawei temporarily dethroned Samsung and became the world’s largest smartphone maker.

According to the latest data from market research firm Counterpoint Research, Huawei edged past Samsung in April 2020 to grab a 19% share of the global smartphone market. Huawei’s market share rose due to its efforts to increase the market share in China after the US trade ban. Samsung’s market share in the same month dipped to around 17% due to coronavirus lockdowns in its key markets such as India, Latin America, parts of Europe, and the US. This also affected the sales of the Galaxy S20 series.

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