Samsung beat Apple again in 2021 despite economic slowdown

Despite the ensuing slowdown due to the pandemic, Samsung managed to keep its smartphone shipments at respectable levels, according to new data obtained by market research firm IDC. It is even more impressive, given that Q4, 2021 witnessed a decline in the overall number of smartphones sold, likely due to a paucity of major launches.

Samsung has held on to its position as the market leader

Samsung managed to ship a total of 272 million smartphones in all of 2021, representing a rise of 6.0% over last year’s figure. It is a tad lower than the 300 million estimates from earlier, but it is quite common for different studies to reach different conclusions. Apple came in a close second at 235 million shipments.

Arch-rival Xiaomi fell surprisingly short with only 191 million units, followed by Oppo and Vivo at 133.5 million and 12.3 million units shipped, respectively. We have to bear in mind that the numbers for Chinese OEMs could be a lot higher if we take into account domestic sales in their home market of China, the data for which is likely not accounted for properly.

Zeroing on numbers from Q4, 2021, we get a slightly different picture. Apple led the pack with 84.9 million smartphones sold. Samsung, on the other hand, sold only 68.9 million units, followed by Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo at 45, 30.1 and 28.3 million units, respectively. Apple managed to maintain its market share hegemony despite shipping fewer smartphones compared to 2020. Ryan Reith, group vice president of  IDC had the following to say:

As we mentioned last quarter, the supply chain and component shortages started to have a meaningful impact on the smartphone market as we entered the second half of the year, and this continues to be the case as we’ve now entered 2022. We expect to see supply and logistical challenges continue through the first half of this year, but we currently believe we’ll return to growth in the second quarter and second half of 2022. There is no question that demand is still strong in many markets, and to some extent, we are seeing increasing consumer interest in 5G and new form factors like foldables

Despite the general optimism around foldable sales, it could take several years before they’re little more than rounding errors in the overall numbers. However, more OEMs are hopping on the foldable hype train, and Samsung has a three-year headstart over most of them.

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