Global smartphone shipments up 6% in 2021 on increased spending

More than 1.43 billion smartphones were sold in 2021, nearly 80 million more than in 2020, Gartner says

Demand for new smartphones was driven by a recovery in global spending in the post-pandemic era and new markets. Sarah Dea / The National
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Global smartphone shipments rose by 6 per cent on an annual basis last year as the industry emerged from coronavirus pandemic-induced disruptions to the market in 2020, a new report by Gartner said.

The demand was driven by a recovery in spending and opening of marketplaces along with a lower base for comparison from 2020. More than 1.43 billion smartphones were sold in 2021, nearly 80 million more than in 2020, the Connecticut-based market researcher said.

Higher smartphone sales in the first half of 2021, following a 12.5 per cent decline in 2020, helped to boost performance last year.

“Previous year’s [2020’s] lower smartphone sales because of Covid-19 and the bounce back to growth in first half of 2021 helped propel the market to growth … however, component shortages and supply chain issues disrupted smartphone sales in the second half of 2021,” Gartner said.

With a yearly increase of 7.6 per cent in smartphone shipments, South Korea's Samsung maintained its top position with 19 per cent market share last year. It sold more than 272.3 million smartphones in 12 months.

US-based Apple, which accounts for 16.7 per cent of global market share, came second. The company, which is expected to launch its iPhone SE 3 on Tuesday, sold 239.2 million smartphones in January-December period.

Chinese brand Xiaomi, which briefly pushed Apple to the third spot in September, occupied the third position. It shipped more than 189.3 million smartphones and took 13.2 per cent of the market.

“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 [2021],” Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said.

“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,” Mr Gupta said.

Global smartphone sales, however, fell 1.7 per cent annually during the fourth quarter of 2021 owing to supply constraints. Apple held the No 1 position among the top five smartphone vendors, helped by strong demand for its 5G-enabled iPhones, Gartner said.

Apple launched its first 5G model (iPhone 13 series) in September, attracting more customers and adding to the company’s sales in the holiday quarter.

Samsung registered strong demand for its premium phones in the October-December period, and its sales increased 11 per cent as compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.

“Apple’s strong sales in China in the fourth quarter of 2021 weakened [the] demand for Chinese smartphones. Oppo and Vivo experienced a decline in sales, whereas Xiaomi held its number three position,” Gartner said.

Updated: May 29, 2023, 12:56 PM