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Global smartphone sales grew 6% in 2021

Component shortages, production disruption and low stock availability are expected to continue to disrupt global smartphone sales.

Worldwide smartphone sales grew 6% in 2021, according to Gartner. Smartphone sales rebounded in the first half of 2021, following a 12.5% decline in 2020. Previous year’s lower smartphone sales because of COVID-19 and the bounce back to growth in first half of 2021 helped propel the market to growth. However, component shortages and supply chain issues disrupted smartphone sales in the second half of 2021.

“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,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. “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.”

The increase in discretionary spending, opening of marketplaces post lockdown, along with a lower base for comparison from 2020 led to 6% growth in 2021. The introduction of 5G at lower price points to meet future proof needs influenced upgrade purchases. As a result, smartphone sales grew for all the top five vendors in 2021 (see Table 1).

In the fourth quarter of 2021, global smartphone sales declined 1.7% owing to supply constraints. Apple maintained the No.1 position among the top five smartphone vendors. The strong demand for iPhones was driven by 5G upgrades. Samsung saw strong demand for its premium phones, and its sales increased 11% as compared to the fourth quarter of 2020 (see Table 2).

Chinese smartphone manufacturers Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo expanded their distribution networks in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe to capture the opportunities left open by Huawei and LG after their exits from the smartphone business in 2020. However, Apple’s strong sales in China in the fourth quarter of 2021 weakened demand for Chinese smartphones. Oppo and Vivo experienced a decline in sales, whereas Xiaomi continued to maintain its No. 3 position.