Mac sales fly as PC declines – did the M1 chip save Apple?

MacBook Pro at an angle under a light
(Image credit: Shutterstock - Nanain)

If you've been keeping your eyes out for a deal on one of the latest MacBooks then you might be one of many jumping on the Apple hype wagon, with Mac sales starting to soar while some PC brands seeing large year-on-year declines.

This comes from a global shipping estimates report conducted by Gartner, that claims Apple shipped an estimated 7 million Macs during Q1 2022, a 8.6 percent growth from 6.5 million shipped in Q1 2021. 

"After an unprecedented Chromebook surge in 2020 and early 2021, driven by demand from the US educational market, Chromebook growth has tempered," said Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner. 

"It was a challenging quarter for the PC and Chromebook market to achieve growth, as this time last year the PC market registered its highest growth in decades."

While Apple only ranks as the fourth most popular manufacturer, these estimates show a sharp decline from popular brands such as Lenovo and HP, with a decline of 12.6% and 17.8% respectively.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 1Q22
Company 1Q22 Shipments1Q22 Market Share (%)1Q21 Shipments1Q21 Market Share (%)1Q22-1Q21 Growth (%)
HP Inc.15,86320.519,29523.1-17.8

Despite the decline, Lenovo and HP still hold a greater market share than Apple, likely thanks to both brands having lines of budget-friendly hardware that has greater appeal to folks needing an affordable way to stay online.

Apple, by contrast, is undoubtedly a more 'premium' brand with the most affordable laptop in its current lineup being the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) which at $999 / £999 / AU$1,499 can be over twice the price of some of Lenovo's offerings.

Still, the popularity of Apple's in-house silicon could be at least partly responsible for the increase in shipments, with people scrambling to buy products like the M1-powered MacBook Pro 14-inch shortly after it was unveiled last year.

We should also note both Dell and Asus saw impressive growth this year, so Apple isn't the only brand enjoying some time in the sun. IDC released its own estimates on April 10 that tell a very similar story, though both Gartner and IDC's reports are based on estimated shipments and aren't reflective of actual sales data. It's also unlikely we'll get a more accurate look at the market share given that Apple no longer provides unit sales for its Mac, iPhone or iPad lines.

Analysis: What's actually going on?

The release of the M1 SoC (system-on-a-chip) made some serious waves in the computing market. While Macs and MacBooks have always been a luxury product, poor design choices such as the controversial touch bar and removal of ports made them a hard sell to some markets.

The M1 (and subsequent M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra) provided Apple hardware a phoenix-like rise from the ashes, enough so that they frequently top 'best of' lists just as the MacBook Air does on our own lineup of the best laptops on the market.

Still, these shipping estimates don't mean that Apple has clawed back that market share just from providing great products. There are many other factors to include, such as the global chip shortage and sudden rise in hybrid or fully remote work and study caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Western European PC market grew 42% year-on-year back in 2021, which IDC believes was fueled by locked-down consumers needing more devices at home to accommodate their new reality. As such, ChromeBook sales also surged and have since started rapidly declining in recent months as both work and educational environments start to return to pre-pandemic states.

It's also likely that gaming and entertainment played a part, albeit a small one as folks turned to laptops and desktop PCs while they remained inside, which could explain why Dell and Asus, two brands that are especially notable for PC gaming hardware, have also seen increased sales over the last two years.

In short, there's no specific reason that Apple is doing so well in the global laptop market right now, but it's certainly not undeserving of that success. 

The wider PC market will need to work hard against the might of the M1 silicon and hope that the fruit-themed brand doesn't release a truly budget-friendly MacBook to compete in the workforce and educational markets, or worse yet, an M1-powered gaming system.

Via MacRumors

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.