Smartphone market rebounds as Samsung regains top spot

Samsung Galaxy Note 20
(Image credit: Future)

Global sales of smartphones bounced back during Q3, as countries around the world eased lockdown measures that had stifled economic activity.

Figures from IDC suggest the market shrank by just 1.3% during the three-month period – significantly better than analysts forecast of a 9% decline.

Sales in emerging markets such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Russia were a major factor, with discounts and delayed purchases helping drive demand for affordable handsets.

Worldwide smartphone sales

More developed regions such as China, Western Europe and North America reported bigger declines. This can partly be attributed to the delayed launch of the iPhone 12 (all three regions are among Apple’s biggest markets), while demand in China has slowed after its own initial recovery earlier this year.

However, analysts believe the impending launch of Apple’s new flagship, coupled with demand for 5G devices, will aid recovery to a degree.

"In the large developed markets, it is very clear that 5G will be positioned to most consumers as their next phone regardless of which brand or price point they are focused on,” said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “Marketing has ramped up significantly. Products are widely available. Promotions are happening. And it's clear that the top sales initiative in these markets is to push 5G. Having said this, we still believe consumer demand for 5G is minimal at best, which only adds to the price pressure on channels and OEMs."

Samsung reclaimed its position as the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer thanks a 2.9% increase in shipments that gives it control of 22.7% of the market. Its affordable models did well in both emerging and developed markets, while demand for its flagship models also helped it in the US.

Huawei’ sales slumped by 22% thanks to the impact of US sanctions and reduced demand in China and it now ahs 14.7% of the market.

Xiaomi overtook Apple for the first time thanks to a growth rate of 42% due to demand from India and China. The firm now has 13.1% of the market, beating Apple’s 11.8% share which was hit by a 10.6% decline in shipments.

However, Apple will expect to do well in Q4 given the launch of the iPhone 12 and moves it has made to protect its channels against any change in lockdown measures.

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.