The technology analyst firm Counterpoint Research said the two brands had gained in the quarter due to new launches and strong demand for premium devices during the quarter.
The US market showed 24% growth quarter-on-quarter due to record sales of iPhones and demand for Galaxy devices. Apple grew 14% year-on-year while Samsung gained 5%.
Counterpoint's US Mobile Devices and Carrier Strategies director Jeff Fieldhack said, “Q4 2020 was a particularly challenging quarter for many OEMs, especially those who manufacture devices for the pre-paid and lower price band markets.
"Congress had not yet approached a new round of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits were set to expire, which lowered demand in the sub-$300 smartphone market. On the other hand, premium devices did well in the quarter. There was a pent-up demand in the higher price bands as customers spent some of their savings on new gadgets during the holiday period.”
Research analyst Maurice Klaehne added, “We did see two bright spots in the market. Apple had a very strong year-on-year growth period, even with a delayed and staggered iPhone 12 launch. Demand for new iPhones outpaced supply in many cases as carriers had good promotional offers for both switchers and upgraders, something that is not as frequent.
"AT&T’s upgrade offers allowed customers to trade in older devices for discounts of up to US$799 (A$1047), effectively making the iPhone 12 a free device with a qualifying unlimited plan and trade-in.
"Initial wait times for the Pro models, especially the iPhone 12 Pro Max, spanned close to three weeks. Given this strong demand for new iPhones and supply shortages in Q4 2020, we expect sales to spill over into Q1 2021.”
Regarding Samsung's showing in the quarter, senior research analyst Hanish Bhatia said, “Samsung had a strong quarter as well, mainly due to the success of the Samsung S20 FE 5G. The OEM even launched a 256GB variant in the quarter to meet further demand from customers looking to buy a sub-US$1000 device.
"Especially during this COVID-19 period, customers are looking to spend less money, but still want specifications of flagship devices. Trade-in offers become especially appealing when the monthly bill does not increase by more than US$10 to US$$15.
"Looking ahead to 2021, the launch of new Samsung Galaxy S21 addresses the pricing issue as each device is US$200 less expensive than the S20 series. However, January and February tend to be a lull in the market, and with Apple’s current momentum, there will be less opportunities for Samsung to capitalise on.”