Samsung topped annual smartphone shipments in 2021, even as the market grew for the first time since 2017, according to a report by Counterpoint Research. The year saw total smartphone shipments of 1.39 billion units, however, they remained below the pre-pandemic level despite 4% annual growth. The market research firm attributes this to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 as well as component shortages. Interestingly, Q4 2021 shipments were down 6% year-on-year (YOY), reaching 371 million units. Meanwhile, Apple recorded record shipments and Xiaomi recorded the highest growth in absolute number of units shipped.
According last report from Counterpoint Research’s Market Monitor service, the global smartphone recovery in 2021 was due to increased demand in regions such as North America, Latin America, and India. Growth in the US was largely driven by demand for Apple’s first 5G-enabled iPhone 12 series, and continued throughout the year. Growth in India was recorded due to higher replacement rates, better availability and attractive financing options on mid- to high-end phones.
“However, China, the world’s largest smartphone market, continued to decline due to supply-side issues caused by ongoing component shortages, as well as demand-side issues resulting from extended replacement cycles.” , said Harmeet Singh Walia, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research. He also said the market recovery could have been even better had it not been for the component shortages that impacted much of the second half of 2021.
When it comes to OEMs, Samsung sold 271 million smartphones in 2021, which is a 6% increase from 2020. The increase is attributed to increased demand for its mid-range A and M series smartphones. As mentioned, Apple recorded 18% year-over-year (YoY) growth to reach a record 237.9 million units in 2021 due to the strong performance of the iPhone 12 series. Xiaomi’s global smartphone shipments grew more, 31% on a base year, hitting a record 190 million units last year.
Oppo (which includes OnePlus since Q3 2021) has seen 28% growth with 143.2 million units sold. Its sister brand Vivo grew 21% year-on-year to reach annual shipments of 131.3 million units in 2021. Motorola was the fastest growing brand among the top 10 smartphone OEMs based on annual global shipments. Realme has entered the top five Android OEMs globally for the first time, and Honor has earned a spot in the top 10 after its first full year as an independent OEM. Finally, Grupo Transsion performed well with the Tecno and Infinix brands.