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Samsung's 5G smartphone sales are growing fast - but Apple still dominates

ZDNet logo ZDNet 6/18/2021 Liam Tung
a hand holding a cellphone: (Image: Unsplash) © ZDNet

(Image: Unsplash)

Samsung had by far the fastest-growing 5G handset shipments worldwide in the first quarter of 2021, according to analyst firm Strategy Analytics – although Apple continues to dominate the market. 

Samsung's 5G smartphone sales grew a whopping 79% between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021, far ahead of the 5G category's overall growth of 6% and way ahead of Apple, whose 5G iPhone sales declined 23% quarter on quarter, according to Strategy Analytics, although that largely reflected how strong iPhone sales were in Q4 of last year.

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And Apple is still by far the biggest vendor of 5G smartphones despite the drop in shipments. In Q1 2021, it shipped 40.4 million 5G iPhones, while runner-up OPPO shipped 21.5 million. Vivo shipped 19.4 million, Samsung shipped 17 million, and Xiaomi shipped 16.6 million. 

SEE: 5G smartphones: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

According to the firm, global 5G smartphone sales reached a record 136 million units in Q1 2021. 

Analyst Canalys estimates 5G handsets made up 37% of global smartphone shipments in Q1 2021 and predicted them to account for 43% of the 610 million smartphones it reckons will be sold this year. Part of the reason for the growth is that a third of all 5G handsets shipped by the end of the year will cost less than $300.   

Samsung's Galaxy S21 5G, S21 ultra 5G and S21+ 5G performed well in South Korea, North America, and parts of Europe, says Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, associate director at Strategy Analytics. 

"Vivo was the second fastest-growing 5G smartphone vendor in Q1 2021, jumping 62% QoQ to 19 million units shipped, driven by its iQOO U3 5G and U7 5G smartphones," he noted. 

Vivo's 5G smartphone did best in China and Europe. OPPO grew 55% over the period, while Xiaomi increased 41% thanks to China sales. 

SEE: Apple's competitors weren't mentioned in WWDC 2021 keynote, but they were all there

While Apple did see shipments drop off in Q1 2021, that's because it had stellar sales in Q4 2020 when it launched the iPhone 12 series – it's first line-up of 5G iPhones. "Apple dipped 23% QoQ, following a blowout Q4 2020 where the new 5G iPhone was wildly popular as a gift during the holiday season," he says. 

Strategy Analytics notes that China is a weak spot for Samsung's 5G sales. 

graphical user interface, table: Strategy Analytics © Provided by ZDNet Strategy Analytics
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