Apple Shipped Record iPhones in Q4 2020, Global Smartphone Market Continues to Recover

• The global smartphone market continued to recover in Q4 2020, rebounding 8% QoQ to 395.9 million units.
• Apple’s 8% YoY and 96% QoQ growth helped it lead the market in Q4 2020.
• Samsung slipped to the second spot with 62.5 million units in Q4 2020, However, it led the overall market in CY 2020.
• For the first time, OPPO and vivo surpassed Huawei to capture the fourth and fifth spots respectively, Huawei slipped to the sixth spot.
• realme emerged as the fastest growing brand in CY 2020 with 65% YoY growth.

Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – January 28, 2021

The Global Smartphone market declined 1% YoY in Q4 2020, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Market Monitor service. However, the market rose 8% QoQ in Q4 2020, recovering from the global impact of COVID-19. The quarter experienced a subdued recovery from the pandemic especially in areas like Western Europe and LATAM due to the emergence of new strains of the virus coupled with a spike in new infections.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Research Analyst, Aman Chaudhary said, “The market declined 10% YoY in CY 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns, which impacted performance in the first half of the year.  With the easing of lockdowns, the market rebounded in the second half thanks to pent-up demand being fulfilled by the streamlined supply chain. It is interesting to note that the market also made a distinct migration from feature phones to smartphones as the devices became a medium for education, work and entertainment. A strong 5G push by the industry through reduced device prices and operator tariffs further boosted the market’s recovery process.”

Counterpoint Research: Global Smartphone Shipment Market Share CY 2019 and CY 2020

  • Samsung retained its top spot, shipping 255.7 million units in CY 2020, down 14% YoY. The decline is mainly due to a slow Q4 2020 due to intensifying competition. Samsung is facing stiff competition in the mid segment from the Chinese OEMs and in the premium segment from the iPhone 12 series.
    For Q4, Apple captured the top spot in the Global Smartphone Market. The pent-up demand for a new 5G iPhone, strong carrier promotions, especially in the US, and the iPhone 11’s longevity are some of the reasons for this growth.
  • Despite the sanctions and severe component shortages after the escalated US trade ban, Huawei managed to achieve the No 3 spot for CY 2020 thanks to its strong performance in China, which contributed around 70% of its total shipments. Huawei’s performance was driven by new 5G models such as the Mate 40 Pro and Nova 7.
  • realme became the fastest growing brand for the year, growing 65% YoY in shipment volume.
  • Xiaomi global smartphone shipments grew 31% YoY to 43 million units in Q4 2020. In China, Xiaomi’s shipments increased 46% YoY to 12 million units due to the Single’s Day sales season and HONOR’s weakening performance. Xiaomi continued to enjoy an impressive growth driven by its hot-selling models such as the Redmi 9, Redmi 9A and Redmi 10X especially in the overseas market and mainly in Europe. This growth came at the expense of Huawei and HONOR.
  • OPPO grew 8% YoY and 10% QoQ to achieve 9% market share (34 million units) in Q4 2020. Notably, this was also the first time OPPO and vivo surpassed Huawei to capture the fourth and fifth spots, respectively. Commenting on OPPO’s performance, Chaudhary said “OPPO’s strong performance was driven by its aggressive strategies to expand its presence in the overseas markets, particularly in Europe and the MEA (the Middle East and Africa). The brand leveraged the opportunity created by the absence of Huawei in major international markets. OPPO also performed well in the India market with its shipments growing 11% YoY in 2020. This growth was driven by pre-festive season promotions in October. Additionally, we saw the brand marking its entry into the IoT ecosystem through products such as Smart TVs.”

Counterpoint Research: Global Smartphone Shipment Market Share Q4 2020While the overall market continued to rebound from the ill effects of COVID-19, 5G also continued to grow. Commenting on the 5G scenario, Senior Research Analyst, Harmeet Singh Walia said, “5G shipments continued to accelerate registering a 120% QoQ jump in Q4. The overall 5G smartphone penetration increased to 34% of total smartphone shipments compared to 17% in the previous quarter. The growth was driven by the launch of the iPhone 12 and a strong portfolio of products from brands like OnePlus, OPPO, Xiaomi and vivo in the sub-$300 price band. Also, there was a large pent-up demand for 5G phones, especially within the iOS base. China accounted for ~40% of the total 5G smartphones shipped in CY 2020. Apple’s entry will be a strong influence in driving 5G adoption outside China in 2021.” 

Other key takeaways:

  • Samsung shipped 62.5 million units in Q4 2020, down 11% YoY mainly due to the increase in Apple shipments across regions. The Galaxy A series, a mid-to-low-end product lineup continued to perform well.
  • Tecno performed well in key African markets such as Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. It gained 11% YoY and 22% QoQ. The Camon 15 and Pouvoir series were the major volume drivers. The newly launched Spark 5 is expected to further drive the performance in coming quarters.
  • Continuing its push in the global market, vivo surpassed Huawei during the quarter. The brand registered 6% YoY growth during the quarter, driven by a strong growth momentum in overseas markets, such as in MEA and Southeast Asia. The brand also introduced a new operating system OriginOS, which comes with a host of visual changes and offers several features such as Klotski Grid, Nano Alerts, Live Wallpapers, Enhanced Memory Fusion Technology 1.0, and Multi-Turbo 5.0.
  • Google performance improved over the quarter driven by the Pixel 4A and Pixel 5. It offered attractive discounts on its new range of 5G devices in the US which emerged as a strong alternative to other mid-range Android devices.
  • Motorola declined 16% in Q4 2020. The brand is attempting to shift presence from prepaid to postpaid channels through significant promotions such as $400-off with the new RAZR and $50 to $300 off with other products. The Moto G Stylus and Moto G Fast remain the best-selling models for the brand.
  • LG was stronger with device launches. Q4 was an improvement both for K-series and 5G devices such as the LG Wing.
  • 5G smartphones contributed to 34% of global smartphone shipments in Q4 2020 and are expected to be around two-thirds of total shipments in 2023.

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Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in Technology products in the TMT industry. It services major technology firms and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analysis of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are experts in the industry with an average tenure of 13 years in the high-tech industry.

You can also visit our Data Section (updated quarterly) to view the smartphone market share Globally and from the USAChina, and India.

Some of our other regional smartphone market analysis for Q4 2020 can be found below:

Transsion Led the Kenya Smartphone Sales in 2019

Transsion Group contributed to 44% of the smartphone sales during 2019

Smartphone sales grew by 10% YoY in 2019 with the highest ever in 2019 Q4 with 59% of handset market share

New Delhi, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Seoul, San Diego, London, Buenos Aires – Mar 18th, 2020

Kenya’s smartphone sale grew by 10% in 2019, according to Counterpoint Research’s Market Pulse. This growth was driven by upgrades from feature phones to smartphones. The smartphone market now captures 56% of total handset sales, most from the sub-$100 segment. The second half of 2019 underwent strong growth due to attractive offers like Black Friday sales, Open Day Sales by Safaricom, Christmas and new year offers on Jumia and MobileHub.

Commenting on the OEM landscape, Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, said, “In Kenya’s handset market, Transsion Group’s brands accounted for 44% of smartphone sales with Tecno the leading among its three brands. 72% of smartphone sales come from the sub-$100 price segment. Transsion Group brands accounted for over half of this segment in 2019. This stronghold over the smartphone market by Transsion Group is mainly driven by speedy upgrades from feature phones to smartphones, the affordable localized offerings along with the brand loyalty developed over several years.”

Further adding to which, Mr. Pathak said, “The top 10 smartphone brands held 87% of the market in 2019. Despite Samsung experiencing a downward trend, it had the second-highest smartphone share in 2019. Huawei, a comparatively new brand in the region, experienced strong growth.”

Counterpoint Kenya Smartphone Market Share of Top OEMs in 2019

Commenting on the device features, Arushi Chawla, Research Associate at Counterpoint Research said: “As the smartphone market has matured, sales smartphones with a screen size above 6” have increased. This has led to a situation where Kenyan smartphone users have developed an inclination towards smartphones with larger batteries in 2019 – this is both enabled by larger screens and needed as usage intensity has increased.”

Adding further Arushi said, “From the component perspective, MediaTek SoCs led in 2019 with 60% market share, driven primarily from smartphones in the price band $50-$100. Whereas, Qualcomm was the leading SoC for premium smartphones.”

Market Summary:

  • The top 10 smartphone brands held 87% of the market share in 2019.
  • Six out of the top 10 best-selling smartphone models during 2019 came from brands owned by the Transsion Group.
  • Brands like Tecno (Transsion) and Samsung have a stronghold over the Kenyan market, thanks to accumulated trust developed by them over several years.
  • The top five brands, Tecno, iTel, Samsung, Infinix, and Nokia HMD, accounted for 77% of the Kenyan smartphone market in 2019.
  • In 2019, Transsion Group (Tecno, iTel and Infinix) contributed 44% of all smartphones with a display size greater than 6”.
  • Samsung continues to dominate the premium smartphone market with 56% sales in 2019. However, Xiaomi enjoyed a growing share of the premium smartphone sales.
  • Smartphones with 32GB internal memory were the most popular. Smartphones with an internal memory of 64GB and 128GB are also growing at a high rate.
  • LTE adoption remained above 70% throughout the year. Samsung is driving the LTE contribution with 20% of the total LTE smartphones followed by Infinix and Tecno with 16% and 15% respectively in 2019.

Analyst Contacts:

Arushi Chawla

Tarun Pathak

Follow Counterpoint Research

Impact of Rising Import Duties on Bangladesh’s Handset Market

The handset industry in Bangladesh has scaled rapidly over the last decade with 160.8 million total mobile subscribers at the end of May 2019. Bangladesh MNOs continue to register growth, riding high on rising digitization throughout the country. Grameenphone led the mobile subscriber market with 74.78 million users followed by Robi Axiata with 47.69 million customers in May.

During 2017-18, the Bangladesh government first offered some tax benefits to local assemblers and increased import duties. This was followed by further revisions to the import duty structure with the supplementary duty raised to 10 percent from 5 percent.

Local assemblers termed it a prudent decision that would help their industry to grow. Currently the total tax on imported handsets is 32 percent, which will rise to over 50 percent. In contrast, locally assembled handsets bear about 17 percent in taxes. For handsets fully manufactured in Bangladesh, the tax is just 5 percent. To obtain the tax benefit, five local and international brands have already started assembling mobile devices, catering to about 30 percent of the country’s annual demand for 35 million handsets. This will have an impact on the following areas:

  • Smartphone imports will be costlier

Currently the total tax on imported handsets is 32 percent – rising to over 50 percent. There are more than 90 million active internet connections in the country of which about 95 percent are accessing from a mobile phone. If smartphone costs increase, it will likely hinder the government’s digital Bangladesh vision.

  • Increase in Local manufacturing

The government is trying to promote local assembly of smartphones. A surge in demand for affordable smartphones has focused minds on the business opportunity in Bangladesh. At present five plants have launched, and they are assembling about 30 percent of the country’s total yearly demand. The tax on semi-knocked down (SKD) phones is about 17 percent. For completely knocked down (CKD) it is about 5 percent.

The target is to reduce import volumes and to cater to the local market, after which export opportunities will be explored. Local manufacturing and assembling of phones will further bolster replacement of feature phones by smartphones. Many of the locally manufactured and assembled phones are much cheaper compared to the imported models.

  • Boost illegal mobile imports

Not everyone is assembling locally and to get past the duty some brands will start importing illegally. This will have a negative impact on the industry. At present, illegal imports account for 15 to 20 percent of the market. While there has always been a notable presence of illegally imported handsets in the market, the trend has gathered pace in recent years. Such a high import duty ultimately increases the prices of legally imported phones while making the illegal shipments a more viable option. The resulting burden on the sector trickles down to the consumer, hampers growth and draws the country further away from the goals of Digital Bangladesh.

If the intent is to uplift and grow the sector and ensure that millions more Bangladeshi citizens can access digital services, then the tax proposals mentioned above need to be reconsidered and applied gradually. The manufacturing ecosystem is not robust. The poorest consumers, for whom mobile access could deliver the greatest benefits, are likely to be most negatively affected by these proposals. The increase in the minimum tax on turnover of mobile companies who were still not profitable will only add to their burden and discourage shareholders investing further in the market. The rise of local manufacturing and assembling of smartphones and subsequent availability of cheaper alternatives is reducing Bangladesh’s dependency on imports, but it will take some time as imports are the main source for meeting local demand.

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