5G, the new frontier in telecommunications technology, is being adopted faster than its predecessor, 4G. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we are observing a resilient and consistent rise in 5G smartphone penetration in every region. 5G devices captured more than two-thirds (69%) of global smartphone revenue in Q1 2021, with their shipments reaching 39% of the global total for the quarter, according to Counterpoint’s Quarterly Market Monitor service.
Exhibit 1: Global Smartphone Revenue and Shipment Share of 5G, Q1 2021
The launch of Apple’s 5G capable iPhone 12 series in Q4 2020 gave a boost to the 5G smartphone market. The momentum continued in Q1 2021 when 5G smartphone shipments grew 7% QoQ despite total shipments declining 10% QoQ.
Although Apple declined QoQ in Q1 2021, it did not slow down as much as expected due to pent-up demand and operator promotions. Further, Apple’s decline was offset by the growth of 5G portfolio of other OEMs across price tiers. Samsung launched its flagship S21 series while Xiaomi’s flagship Mi 11 series was also available during the quarter. Lenovo, vivo, OPPO and realme, all saw impressive growth in both 5G smartphone revenues and shipments, powered by their low- to mid-range 5G offerings.
That said, Apple still recorded the highest 5G smartphone revenue and shipment share in Q1 2021.
Exhibit 2: Global Smartphone Revenue and Shipment Share of 5G by OEMs, Q1 2021
In terms of regions, China is still the largest 5G market both by revenue and volume, powered by low- to mid-tier offerings. Brands like realme are becoming the key to unlocking 5G accessibility for the masses.
The adoption of 5G, until now, has been driven by the flagship segment. The next part in the 5G adoption story will be convincing the rest of the smartphone user base, which is either price-conscious or utility-driven or both, to shift to 5G. This will depend on OEMs bringing in budget 5G smartphones, governments implementing conducive policies, and a growing basket of 5G use cases to convince users, especially in emerging markets.
Note: Preliminary revenue, based on wholesale pricing.