The smartphone market returned to familiar ground in Q4 2020, with figures from a quartet of analyst companies indicating a recovery for the segment, fuelled by 5G and mid-tier devices.

IDC placed shipments at 385.9 million units, up 4.3 per cent year-on-year, driven by a record period for Apple. The company noted the picture for Huawei looked bleak, and the quarterly rise did not translate into full year growth for the market, with shipments down 5.9 per cent to 1.3 billion.

Ryan Reith, programme VP for IDC’s global mobile tracking service, said recovery in smartphone shipments and the supply chain in Q4 was “truly impressive”, and the company is confident demand “will grow and the market recovery will accelerate” in 2021 as the world begins to shake off the impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus).

Figures from rival research companies for Q4 showed similar trends to IDC’s numbers.

Counterpoint Research recorded shipments of 395.9 million units; Canalys put the figure at 359.6 million units; and while Omdia said it reached 381.1 million.

IDC device programme research director Nabila Popal said “pent-up demand, continued supply push on 5G, aggressive promotions, and the popularity of low- to mid-priced phones”, fuelled growth in Q4.

Mixed fortunes
The research company noted a clear shift among the top five players. Apple stood-out as market leader on shipments of 90.1 million units, attributed to its iPhone 12 models.

IDC reckoned Apple’s shipments as the highest-ever by a single vendor in a quarter, netting it a 23.4 per cent share of the market.

But Huawei suffered, with shipments of 32.2 million units down 42.2 per cent as it “continues to suffer under the weight of US sanctions”.

Samsung’s A-Series was credited as a driver of its 73.9 million units, Xiaomi shipped 43.3 million and Oppo 33.8 million.