Apple and Samsung success sees huge rise in global smartphone sales

iPhone 13
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Sales of smartphones across the world rose by 6% in 2021 as the market saw a post-pandemic rebound in demand, new figures have claimed.

Phone sales were helped by the easing of lockdown measures around the globe throughout last year, although the overall growth was still tempered by ongoing challenges concerning component shortages and supply chain disruption, according to new figures from Gartner.

Sales slumped by 12.5% during 2020 as retailers closed their doors and consumers delayed purchases, however, the reopening of marketplaces and the availability of 5G handsets at more price points contributed to growth over the past 12 months, particularly in the first half of the year.

Smartphone sales

The world’s five biggest manufacturers all saw an uplift, with Samsung sales up 7.6% to 272 million units – enough for 19% of the market. Apple device sales increased by 19.7% to 239 million and a 16.7% market share, while Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo shipments all rose between a quarter and a third.

However, the component shortage caused by the pandemic is still having an impact and affected sales in the second half of 2021. 

Manufacturers have struggled to get their hands on components such as radio frequency units, power management circuits, and other chips, affecting supply of finished products.

The suggestion is that this shortage is affecting the mid and low-end segments disproportionately and Gartner’s Q4 figures would appear to validate this theory. 

Apple sales rose by 3.8% to 83 million for the quarter, making it the world’s largest vendor with a 21.9% share of the market, while Samsung was up 11% year-on-year to secure a 18.2%. Oppo also witnessed 3.2% growth but Oppo and Vivo sales fell during the three-month period.

Although Chinese manufacturers had hoped to capitalise on Huawei and LG’s retreat from the smartphone business by boosting their distribution networks in regions outside their homeland, the popularity of the iPhone in China limited their room for expansion, according to analysts.

“An improved consumer outlook, pent up demand from 2020 in large markets, such as India and China, helped drive sales in the first half of the year,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. 

“However, this trend reversed in the second half of the year, even with high demand from consumers. Out-of-stock situations for popular models and limited inventories pushed out some of the possible sales to 2022.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.