A Belated Look at 2021 Smartphone Sales

Posted on March 24, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, iOS, Android with 5 Comments

Hardware makers sold 1.39 billion smartphones in calendar year 2021, up 5 percent when compared to the 1.32 billion sold in 2020.

Which is all very interesting. But yeah, it’s the end of March. Why am I writing about this now?

I blame Gartner. IDC released its estimates for global smartphone sales in late January, and Gartner usually generally releases its similar findings within plus or minus a few days of that. But this year, they did not. And so I waited. And kept checking Gartner’s site. And then I forgot after a month went by. But Gartner did belatedly publish its own report in early March. Which I missed. Until now.

Anyway, here we are. And while a YOY gain is always a good thing, 2021 smartphone sales should have been even better.

“The second half of 2021 failed to meet expectations with volumes declining 4.5 percent compared to the second half of 2020,” IDC group vice president Ryan Reith said. “The supply chain and component shortages started to have meaningful impact on the smartphone market as we entered the second half of the year, and this continues to be the case as we’ve now entered 2022.”

“An improved consumer outlook, pent up demand from 2020 in large markets, such as India and China, helped drive sales in the first half of the year,” Gartner senior research director Anshul Gupta added. “However, this trend reversed in the second half of the year, even with high demand from consumers. Out-of-stock situations for popular models and limited inventories pushed out some of the possible sales to 2022.”

As for the top five hardware makers, it’s a familiar list.

Samsung was once again the biggest seller of smartphones in 2021, with 272.15 million units sold, a gain of 6.8 percent YOY and good enough for 19.6 percent marketshare. Apple was again number two, with 237.45 million units sold, a gain of almost 18 percent YOY; Apple accounted for 17 percent of all smartphones sold in 2021. Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi (190 million units, up 29.5 percent), OPPO (135.9 million units, up 22 percent), and Vivo (132 million units, up 21 percent) rounded out the top 5.

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Comments (5)

5 responses to “A Belated Look at 2021 Smartphone Sales”

  1. thomalexday

    Do we really need over a billion new smartphones in the world each year?

  2. dftf

    So Samsung (19.6%), Apple (17%), Xiaomi (13.6%), OPPO (9.7%) and Vivo (9.5%) account for around 70% of all phones sold. Makes you wonder why some vendors, like Nokia, Motorola, Alcatel and Sony, still bother. As LG did, surely there comes a point your marketshare is so-low it's not worth bothering?

    • dftf

      Add OnePlus to that list, too

        • jg1170

          Curious to see how next year goes for smartphone sales now that all the stimulus checks/child credits have been exhausted and millions of Americans are being "forced" to pay their rent (eviction bans ending) and mortgages (forbearance expiring) again. Not to mention a spike in bond rates that is throwing a wet blanket on so many things, especially the covid era ATM machines (asset classes that "inexplicably" appreciated much faster than incomes). So given the macroeconomic picture I honestly see a YOY decrease in overall sales, with Apple probably weathering it the worst.