New numbers from Canalys show a slowing in the major smartphone shipments we saw for 2020. The past year was, of course, a major blow to an industry already suffering a slide. Hopes that the arrival of 5G would right the ship were dashed by COVID-19.
Things are looking up, fueled in large part by a killer quarter for Apple. The company posted its earnings last night, putting much of its success at the feet of the iPhone 12. In spite (or perhaps because) of pandemic-fueled delays, the handset arrived in a perfect storm — the beginnings of a “supercycle” that sees customers upgrading devices in a kind of critical mass.
Numbers are still down for the fourth quarter of 2020 — but they’re down by only 2% per the firm. That’s due in no small part to what amounted to the iPhone’s best quarter, as the company introduced four 5G-sporting handsets. Canalys shows a 4% increase for Apple, as the device arrived to a wider 5G rollout just in time for the holiday season.
The company snagged the global No. 1 spot, with Samsung taking No. 2 in spite of a 12% decline. Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo rounded out the top five, all seeing double-digit increases, y-o-y.
The category is expected to see a rebound this year, after suffering declines due first to supply chain concerns and then larger economic issues, stemming from the pandemic.
“The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines is also boosting business confidence for 2021, allowing them to plan and invest,” analyst Ben Stanton says of the figures. “Going forwards, there will be obvious economic ripple effects as government stimulus fades, and there are ongoing concerns around new virus strains. Overall though, sentiment in the industry is positive, and 2021 will see the smartphone market rebound after a 7% decline in 2020.”
Another report from Canalys notes more positive news for the PC market, showing a 35% y-o-y increase, courtesy of tablet and Chromebook sales.