iPhone 12 surge drives Apple to number one in global smartphone market

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max cameras (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple is estimated to have shipped 82 million iPhone units in Q4 of 2020.
  • The new record for the company pushed it to the number one spot amongst smartphone vendors.

New research indicates that Apple shipped some 82 million iPhones in Q4 of 2020, pushing it to become the world's number one smartphone vendor.

According to Canalys:

In Q4 2020, worldwide smartphone shipments reached 359.6 million units, a small decline of 2% year-on-year. Apple shipped its most iPhones ever in a single quarter, at 81.8 million units, up 4% against the previous year. Samsung took second place, shipping 62.0 million units for a -12% decline. Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo completed the top five, with each seeing share gains from a beleaguered Huawei (including Honor). Xiaomi grew 31% to 43.4 million units, Oppo grew 15% to 34.7 million units, while Vivo shipped 32.1 million units for 14% growth. Huawei (including Honor) came in sixth place in Q4 2020 with 32.0 million smartphones shipped. It marks the first time in six years that it fell outside the global top five smartphone vendors. For the full year of 2020, Samsung maintained the global leader position, with 20% global market share, Apple came in second place and Huawei (including Honor) remained at top three.

As noted, the results mean that Samsung remained number one over the entire year, but Q4 was a runaway victory for Apple as its shipments slumped by 12% during the same period.

Apple's 81.8 million units gave it an estimated 23% market share of smartphone shipments, ahead of Samsung's 17% share in second place, followed up by Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo.

Canalys Analyst Vincent Thielke said:

"The iPhone 12 is a hit. Apple is better positioned than its competitors on 5G, being heavily skewed towards developed markets, and mobile operator sales channels. But it also made savvy moves behind the scenes to propel its sales and profitability. The omission of a power plug from the iPhone retail box, which reduces weight and size, is making logistics significantly more efficient, amid the ongoing high cost of air freight due to the pandemic. And it also implemented channel-centric growth initiatives to target SMB customers, which have bolstered demand for its entire range of iPhones."

The news follows Apple's own revenue reports for Q1 2021 which show the company saw record revenues of $111.4 billion.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9