Thursday, 29 April 2021 21:58

Canalys: Worldwide smartphone market surges 27% as key regions subdue the pandemic

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Global smartphone shipments are on the up in Q1 2021, 27% YoY, as "key regions subdue the pandemic", although with COVID-19 still out there and causing havoc in India, the rest of the year's results from Canalys and others will no doubt be watched closely by the world's smartphone makers.

In Q1 2021, worldwide smartphone shipments reached 347 million units, up 27% year on year.

Samsung took first place, shipping 76.5 million to take a 22% share. Apple shipped 52.4 million iPhones, to take a 15% share. Its iPhone 12 Mini has sold below expectations, but strength in other iPhone 12 models, as well as stronger demand for the older iPhone 11, helped it maintain strong momentum.

Xiaomi clocked its best single-quarter performance ever, growing 62% and shipping 49.0 million units. Oppo and Vivo completed the top five, shipping 37.6 million units and 36.0 million units respectively. Huawei, which no longer includes Honor, is now in seventh place with 18.6 million units, as the former world number one remains shackled by US sanctions.

“Xiaomi is in pole position to be the new Huawei,” said Canalys Research Manager Ben Stanton.

“In addition to great product value, it is now also making strides to recruit local talent, become more channel-friendly and lead in high-end innovation, as seen with the Mi 11 Ultra and its recent foldable, the Mi Mix Fold. Its competitors offer superior channel margin, but Xiaomi’s sheer volume actually gives distributors a better opportunity to make money than rival brands. But the race is not over. Oppo and Vivo are hot on its heels, and are positioning in the mid-range in many regions to box Xiaomi in at the low end.

"Honor is also a looming threat. It has already struck supply chain deals and is now signing distribution agreements to re-enter several markets in the second half of 2021. Xiaomi is leading the pack, but the race has only just started.”

“LG, a stalwart of the smartphone industry, is quitting this year,” said Canalys Analyst Sanyam Chaurasia.

“It is symbolic of a new era in the smartphone market. It proves that aggressive pricing and channel strategy are more important than hardware differentiation in the modern day. LG holds the majority of its share in the Americas, at 80% of its total in 2020, which presents new opportunities for the likes of Motorola, TCL, Nokia and ZTE, particularly at price points below US$200. As the smartphone market continues to consolidate, this will not be the last time the incumbent vendors fight over the remains of a defeated brand.”

“COVID-19 is still a major consideration, but it is no longer the main bottleneck,” said Stanton.

“Supply of critical components, such as chipsets, has quickly become a major concern, and will hinder smartphone shipments in the coming quarters. And it will drive global brands to rethink regional strategies. Some brands, for example, have de-prioritized device shipments in India, amid the new COVID-19 wave, and instead are focusing efforts on recovering regions, such as Europe.

"And while the shortages persist, it will grant larger companies a unique advantage, as the global brands have more power to negotiate allocation. This will put further pressure on smaller brands and could force many to follow LG out of the door.”


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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