Apple beats Samsung, takes global smartphone lead in Q4


iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Apple shipped more smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2020 than any other company, according market research firm Gartner.

Apple shipped nearly 80 million units in the quarter, surpassing all other smartphone makers including Samsung. It’s the first time Apple has been on top since the 2016, according to the report released Monday.

Apple’s strong holiday quarter and the new Gartner results continue to suggest that Apple’s family of iPhone 12 devices, with 5G capability and a new external design, is a hit in the marketplace. The results also suggest that Apple has weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than its smartphone competitors.

Last month, a competing estimate said that Apple shipped shipped 90.1 million phones during the same quarter, a figure that market researcher IDC said was the single best quarter in the history of the smartphone, judged by shipments.

Apple doesn’t report unit sales for its devices. In the fourth quarter of calendar 2020, Apple reported $65.6 billion in iPhone sales, up 17% year-over-year. Apple’s business is seasonal and the quarter ending in December is the company’s biggest in terms of sales. Apple’s latest iPhones weren’t even on sale for the entire quarter.

The smartphone market declined 5.4% in 2020 amid the global coronavirus pandemic, according to the report, while Apple’s shipments grew 3.3%. Samsung still shipped the most devices over a year-long period.

The biggest drop on the table comes from Huawei, which shrunk 24.1% in 2020, although it was still the third-largest smartphone maker by volume. Huawei is struggling with U.S. sanctions which have significantly hampered its handset business. Samsung doesn’t face the same challenge but still saw shipments drop 14.6% in 2020, according to Gartner.

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