TrendForce: Apple Overtook Samsung to Become World’s Largest Smartphone Maker in Fourth Quarter

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Apple produced 77.6 million iPhones units in the fourth quarter of 2020, 69.8 million of which were iPhone 12 models, helping the company overtake Samsung to become the top global smartphone brand, according to TrendForce.

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The analysts’ latest report says Apple sold 10 million more phones than its biggest rival over the quarter, with Samsung selling 67 million phones, a quarter-on-quarter decline of 14%. By contrast, Apple recorded an 85% increase QoQ, driven in part by Apple’s support for 5G across its latest smartphone lineup and its adoption of an aggressive pricing strategy.

Even though the share of high-end models in global smartphone sales shrank in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple was able to push through the headwinds and capture market share by introducing 5G models and adopting an aggressive pricing strategy. Apple produced 77.6 million units of iPhones in 4Q20, an 85% increase QoQ, thereby overtaking Samsung and ranking first amongst all smartphone brands. It should also be pointed out that ‌iPhone 12‌ devices accounted for about 90% of the iPhone production in 4Q20.

TrendForce foresees higher than expected sales for all manufacturers in the first quarter of this year. “Historically, smartphone production tends to experience a QoQ drop of around 20% for the first quarter as demand collapses from the peak-season level of the fourth quarter of the preceding year,” say its analysts. “However, the performance of the first quarter of this year is expected to defy seasonality.”

To that end, sales of ‌iPhone 12‌ devices are likely to remain strong in the first quarter of 2021, and total ‌iPhone‌ production are expected to reach 54 million units, with ‌iPhone 12‌ models again accounting for about 80% of this figure.

Despite Samsung losing ground on Apple in the last quarter, TrendForce expects Samsung to top the global smartphone production ranking for the whole of 2021, thanks to its new flagship Galaxy S21 lineup and the adoption of promotional pricing to boost sales of its latest high-end devices.

However, the analysts believe Samsung’s ability to retain the leadership position will prove increasingly challenging as it continues to lose market share to Chinese brands like Oppo and Xiaomi, which have risen rapidly over the past few years thanks to devices that boast better price-performance ratio compared to Samsung’s offerings.

Today’s report lines up with the latest data gathered by Gartner, which found that Apple overtook Samsung to become the largest smartphone vendor worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2020, a feat not achieved by Apple since 2016.

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