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Global smartphone shipments return to pre-pandemic levels for the first time in 2021

Global smartphone shipments return to pre-pandemic levels for the first time in 2021
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
28 Jan, 2022
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Global smartphone shipments returned close to pre-pandemic levels with up to 1.37 billion shipments in CY 2021 in spite of challenges such as shortage of components particularly of chipsets, reported leading market researchers. For instance, Canalsys said that global shipments during the year reached 1.35 billion at a 7% year-on-year (YoY) increase, which was close to the 1.37 billion shipped in 2019, right before the pandemic started. International Data Corporation (IDC) has predicted the shipments to reach 1.37 billion at 7.4% YoY growth. As per Counterpoint Research, global smartphone shipments grew at 4% YoY to reach 1.39 billion units in 2021, growing for the first time since 2017.  

According to Canalys, Samsung dominated the market during the entire calendar year with a 20% market share, followed by Apple (17%) and Xiaomi (14%), Oppo (11%) and Vivo (10%).  

Le Xuan Chiew, research analyst at Canalys explains, Samsung was hit hard by supply and production issues in the year, and its key volume driver, the Galaxy A-series, saw shortages across the world. However, Samsung managed to offset falling volume share by shifting focus on the high-end portfolio of devices including the Galaxy S and Z series.  

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Samsung tripled shipments of its foldable smartphones and finished 2021 with incredibly healthy earnings, pointed out Chiew. This is also reflected in Samsung’s quarterly financial results that were announced earlier today along with the results of the fiscal year 2021. The South Korean company posted KRW 76.57 trillion in consolidated revenue in Q4 2021 and KRW 279.6 trillion in annual revenue. Samsung executives attributed the growth to an increase in sales of premium smartphones, including foldable phones, TVs and home appliances.  

However, in terms of quarterly shipments as per Canalys, Samsung slipped to the second position with a 19% market share, while Apple moved to the top with a 23% market share. Counterpoint also reported similar quarterly trends. Canalys attributed Apple’s change in market position to the strong holiday quarter driven by the iPhone 13 series. Earlier today, Apple announced its financial results for the quarter, which shows revenue from October to December exceeded Wall Street expectations to hit $123.9 billion. The iPhones accounted for $71.6 billion of the revenue.  

According to Counterpoint, Apple also made inroads in markets such as India where it shipped its highest ever up to 6 million units in 2021.  

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“Growth in the US was driven largely by demand for Apple’s first 5G-enabled iPhone 12 series seeping through to the first quarter of 2021; a demand which continued throughout the year ending on a strong Q4 thanks to Black Friday and holiday season promotions,” said Harmeet Singh Walia, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.  

Sanyam Chaurasia, a research analyst at Canalys pointed out that recovery has been challenging for the industry, as demand was higher than supply in many regions.  

“The key growth driver for the industry came from Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Unfortunately, this segment also witnessed the most severe component shortages, especially in low-end 4G chipsets,” he added.  

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Chaurasia believes the supply imbalance will ease gradually as chipset vendors ramp up production, and the price of 5G chipsets falls, which will help 5G devices become the next volume driver in 2022.  

IDC in its report said that the persistent supply chain constraints and rising component prices along with intensifying inflationary rates will continue to put pressure on smartphone shipments. However, 5G shipments are expected to lift the market in 2022. Online channels will continue to play a key role in driving smartphone shipments this year.