Apple back on top: iPhone is the bestselling smartphone globally in Q4 2020

Apple iPhone

When Apple announced that, as expected, its iPhone 12 lineup would support the next-generation 5G wireless data standard, analysts expected the company would experience what’s called an “upgrade supercycle,” in which pent-up demand for the smartphone would be unleashed, giving it a huge sales boost.



Those expectations appear to have been met. Gartner reports that Apple’s iPhone sales surged in the final quarter of 2020, making it the best-selling smartphone in the world. Apple has not held that position since the fourth quarter of 2016, as the No. 1 spot globally has typically been claimed by Samsung.

Gartner estimates that Apple sold nearly 80 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, claiming almost 21% of market share. No. 2 Samsung sold more than 62 million phones, giving it just over 16% share for the quarter.

Samsung’s growth quarter-over-quarter declined by almost 12%, while Apple grew almost 15%.

The situation was similar for U.S. sales, where Apple has long held a lead over Samsung. Gartner estimates Apple sold more than 28 million iPhones in the fourth quarter for a whopping 90% quarter-over-quarter growth. That’s compared to Samsung’s more than 7 million, which was a 25% quarter-over-quarter decline.



Apple’s surge comes despite a delayed launch date in late October for the iPhone 12 line due to the coronavirus pandemic. Samsung’s new Galaxy S21 lineup launched in mid-January.

Gartner also notes that Samsung suffered a year-over-year decline in 2020, but it held onto the No. 1 position globally for the entire year. Samsung sold more than 235 million phones in 2020, compared to Apple’s sales of almost 200 million.

Apple reported record sales of $111.4 billionduring the fourth quarter of last year, the first time revenue passed the $100 billion mark, $65.6 billion of that was from iPhone sales.

Apple’s success was not matched by the rest of the industry. Gartner says overall global sales of smartphones dropped by 5.4% in the fourth quarter, and were down by 12.5% for the full year. Apple was late to the 5G game, as most competitors already had devices that could work on the newer networks when the iPhone 12 was launched.

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