More than 53 million 5G devices had been sold by the end of the quarter since 5G devices started being offered in 2019, the company said.
For the first quarter alone, 5G smartphone sales made up 57% of the total sales, with stimulus cheques, an uptick in vaccinations and fewer pandemic restrictions boosting Americans' confidence.
Compared to the final quarter of 2020, there was the usual contraction in the first quarter of 2021 as happens after a strong holiday period. Additionally, there was an iPhone 12 launch in the final three months of 2020.
"Samsung also refreshed its S series line-up with the S21 in February. In March, we began seeing the pre-paid market grow as the third round of stimulus money and a delayed tax season started having their effect.
"The 5G smartphone market stalled as more pre-paid customers were purchasing LTE devices which were heavily discounted due to tax season sales. 5G smartphones were also discounted, but they have not moved down to more affordable price tiers yet, causing limited adoption.
"OnePlus was the exception to this trend in pre-paid. The OEM grew its share in Metro to double digits through both the N100 and N10 5G.”
US Mobile Devices and Carrier Strategies director Jeff Fieldhack added: “Overall 5G ASPs (average selling prices) climbed above US$800 (A$1037) in Q1 2021 again due to the prolonged demand for premium devices in early 2021.
"However, Samsung introduced the mid-tier A32 5G and A42 5G in April which we expect will help further drive down overall 5G ASPs. We believe 5G prices will drop below US$250 in H2 2021.
"Qualcomm’s 400 series Snapdragon processor and MediaTek’s 700 and 800 Dimensity series chips will help achieve these price drops. LG’s exit from the market is creating a major opportunity for other OEMs such as Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus and TCL, and carriers are expecting more devices to come with 5G connectivity in lower price tiers. Overall, by the end of Q4 2021, we estimate that 5G smartphone sales will reach 80% of total sales.”
Commenting on the US market outlook, senior research analyst Hanish Bhatia said: “The US economy is looking very promising. Over 23% of the total population is fully vaccinated and states are loosening restrictions on businesses.
"Apple also had another record-breaking quarter, with North America revenues growing 35% year-on-year. All these factors point towards renewed strength in the smartphone market demand and 5G adoption.
"However, we are also watching for component shortages and how this might affect the market going forward. Inventory has been very tight, but supply has been able to meet demand so far.
"Bigger OEMs such as Apple and Samsung seem to be less affected, but smaller Tier 2 and Tier 3 OEMs may feel the impact to a greater extent going forward. Apple has given guidance that component shortages will affect its Mac and iPad lineups as supply will not be able to meet demand.”