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Xiaomi overtakes Apple amid global smartphone sales decline

Apple and Huawei take a hit

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi pushed ahead of Apple in the smartphone stakes, settling into third place after Huawei and Samsung in terms of global sales during an otherwise soft September quarter. 

Of the top five smartphone manufacturers during the quarter, according to industry analyst firm Gartner, Samsung held the top spot with 22 per cent market share, shifting 80.8 million units, while Huawei, in second position, sold 51.8 million units, making up 14.1 per cent of global market share. 

Xiaomi moved ahead of Apple into the third position for the first time ever with sales of 44.4 million units, compared to Apple’s sales of 40.6 million units in the third quarter of 2020.

The shift saw Xiaomi grow 34.9 per cent in the quarter, securing 12.1 per cent market share. It is thought that Xiaomi has gained from Huawei’s loss, including strong performance in China.

Meanwhile, Apple sold 40.6 million units in the period, a decline of 0.6 per cent as compared to 2019, with the slight decrease mainly due to Apple’s delayed shipment start of its new 2020 iPhone generation which, in previous years, would usually start in mid/end September, according to Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner. 

“This year, the launch event and shipment start began four weeks later than usual,” Zimmerman noted.

Credit: Gartner

While the shift in status may be good for Xiaomi, the broader global smartphone market actually took a hit over the three-month period, with worldwide smartphone sales to end-users coming to 366 million units in the third quarter, down 5.7 per cent from the third quarter in 2019.

And it wasn’t just smartphones that suffered, with overall global mobile phone sales to end-users, meanwhile, at 401 million units, a decline of 8.7 per cent year-over-year.

Samsung and Xiaomi were the only vendors in the top five to experience growth in the third quarter of 2020. 

Although quarterly smartphone sales have in fact started to show signs of some recovery, sequentially, after two consecutive quarters of a decline of 20 per cent, smartphone sales continued to remain weaker compared to the same time period in 2019. This is regardless of vendors introducing multiple 5G smartphones during the period.

According to Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, some of blame for the softness of the market can be laid at the feet of the pandemic and its fallout. 

“Consumers are limiting their discretionary spend even as some lockdown conditions have started to improve,” Gupta said. “Global smartphone sales experienced moderate growth from the second quarter of 2020 to the third quarter. This was due to pent-up demand from previous quarters.”

From Gartner’s perspective, economic uncertainties and continued fear of additional waves of the pandemic are expected to continue to put pressure on nonessential spending through the end of 2020. Although it should be noted that some regions are likely to be affected more acutely than others in this way.

Indeed, Gupta said that early signs of recovery can be seen in a few markets, including parts of mature Asia Pacific and Latin America.