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Smartphone sales show first growth since 2017 in new Counterpoint Research report

Despite pandemic-era supply chain and component restraints, strong showings from Apple, Samsung, and other Android OEMs resulted in the first jump in smartphone sales recorded in several years.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer

According to new findings from Counterpoint Research, the global smartphone market showed its first growth in the last 5 years. 

The company's 2021 Market Monitor report tracked a total of 1.39 billion shipments in 2021. This represented a year-over-year jump of 4%, marking the first positive movement in annual shipments since 2017. 

According to Counterpoint, the impressive jump was largely due to sales generated by the 2020 introduction of Apple's iPhone 12 which bled into 2021, as well as strong showings for 2021's Black Friday and holiday season promotions in the US. India also showed strong growth in smartphone replacement purchases, thanks to better availability of stock and financing options for mid to high-tier smartphones, Counterpoint said. 

China, meanwhile, continued to show declining smartphone sales due to supply chain issues and component shortages constricting shipments there. Counterpoint Senior Analyst Harmeet Singh Walia noted that "the market recovery could have been even better if not for the component shortages that impacted much of the second half of 2021." 

Walia also praised the "major brands" for weathering ongoing component shortages "comparatively better" than smaller manufacturers, allowing them to gain market share during these trying times. 

On the market share front, Samsung gained 6% over its 2020 total, moving 271 million units during the year and maintaining its global lead. Apple came in second place with 237.8 million units shipped, showing an impressive 18% jump over 2020 sales. Xiaomi achieved the most growth of any company in 2021, adding 31% with 190.4 million units moved. Meanwhile, OPPO (including OnePlus) and Vivo accounted for fourth and fifth, with 143.2 million and 131.3 million units moved, respectively. 

Other notable movements during the year came from Motorola, which Counterpoint said took advantage of LG's exit from the smartphone game to gain ground on the sub-$300 market, and realme, which broke into the top five Android OEMs globally for the first time on the strength of its first 5G offerings. 

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