US Smartphone Market Down 6% YoY in Q4 2020, but Apple, Samsung Grow

Boston, Denver, Toronto, London, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – February 1, 2021

The US smartphone market saw a 6% YoY decline in sales in Q4 2020 as COVID-19 continued to impact the economy, according to Counterpoint’s latest data from the US Channel Share Tracker. Apple and Samsung were the only OEMs to see positive growth in the quarter, thanks to new launches and a strong demand for premium devices during the holiday season. Despite the overall negative growth, there is good momentum going into 2021. Just as in Q3 2020, the market remained on the road to recovery in Q4.

QoQ growth was at 24% due to record high iPhone sales and a strong demand for Samsung Galaxy devices. Apple grew 14% YoY despite a delayed iPhone 12 launch while Samsung gained 5% YoY.

Counterpoint Research US Smartphone Market YoY Growth by OEM, Q4 2020

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 prepaid and lower price band markets. With COVID-19 still showing record number of US cases, there were over 10.7 million unemployed people at the end of 2020. The economic effect of this can be seen in the negative growth of many OEMs in the quarter. 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 YoY 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 $799, 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.”

Commenting on Samsung’s successful 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-$1,000 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 $10-$15. Looking ahead to 2021, the launch of new Samsung Galaxy S21 addresses the pricing issue as each device is $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 capitalize on.”


Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.

Analyst Contacts:

Maurice Klaehne

Jeff Fieldhack

Hanish Bhatia

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