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Apple clocks highest ever shipments in 2021; but supply shortage impacted market: Counterpoint

Counterpoint research data: Apple hit record shipments in 2021, and Xiaomi, oppo and vivo also saw double digit growth. But supply chain issues and component shortage plagued most players.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 28, 2022 11:32:44 am
Apple iPhone 13, Apple 2021 Market shareApple was the big winner in 2021, and managed to hit record shipments. Apple iPhone 13 are pictured at an Apple Store. (Image credit: Reuters)

The global smartphone market grew 4 per cent annually, a first since 2017, according to numbers shared by Counterpoint Research. Apple was the big winner this year as it hit record shipments. But overall, supply chain shortages continued to plague most players.

The research firm revealed that the total shipments for the global smartphone market managed to hit 1.39 billion units in 2021, though the fourth quarter saw a decline of 6 per cent. The report also notes that despite the growth, overall annual shipments are still below the pre-pandemic level due to the ongoing Covid-19 impact as well as component shortages.

“The market recovery could have been even better if not for the component shortages that impacted much of the second half of 2021. The major brands navigated the component shortages comparatively better and hence managed to grow by gaining share from long-tail brands”, Harmeet Singh Walia, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research said in a press statement.

He added that while pent-up demand in regions like North America, Latin America and India drove recovery, China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, continued to decline.  This was largely due to “due to supply-side issues caused by the ongoing component shortages, as well as demand-side issues resulting from lengthening replacement cycles,” according to Walia.

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The Indian market had a good year in comparison though, driven by higher replacement rates, better availability and more attractive financing options in mid-to high-tier phones.

“2021 was a tough year, with component shortages adding further pressure to a market battling with lingering COVID-19 issues. However, the world is slowly getting on top of the pandemic, despite the threat of a resurgence towards the end of last year, and with supply issues hopefully coming to an end towards the middle of this year, there is reason to be optimistic for good growth in 2022 as a whole,” Jan Stryjak, Research Director said.

While Samsung led the global smartphone market, Apple, Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo recorded their highest-ever annual shipments. Further, the top five brands gained market share thanks to a significant decline by Huawei, and LG’s exit from the smartphone business. It should be noted that in the final quarter of 2021, Apple became the top smartphone vendor with 81.5 million units.

Apple 2021 performance, Apple 2021 market share Graph by Counterpoint Research showing how individual vendors have performed since 2015.

Individual vendor performance in 2021

Samsung remained on top for 2021 overall with 271 million units shipped, which is 6 per cent annual growth. The success was driven due to increased demand for its mid-tier A and M series smartphones. Counterpoint notes that Samsung managed to grow its shipments despite supply side issues given its Vietnam factory was shut in June due to Covid-induced lockdown.

But, Samsung also faces tough competition from Apple and Chinese brands in some of its markets such as India and Latin America, which did limit its growth. Meanwhile, its foldable phones did well in the premium segment.

Apple was number two on the list overall with 18 per cent yearly growth and record 237.9 million units shipped. The success was driven by the iPhone 12 series which saw strong demand. Apple also grew in key markets such as the US, China, Europe and India. In China, it became the top smartphone brand in the fourth quarter after six years thanks to the iPhone 13.

Apple iPhone 13, Apple market share Apple’s iPhone 13 managed to do well in China, and helped the company regain the top position in China in the fourth quarter. (Image credit: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)

Xiaomi saw double digit annual growth at 31 per cent with 190 million units in 2021. A majority of its success came from markets such as India, China, South-East Asia and Europe. It did see a decline in shipments in the third quarter, but managed to grow marginally in the final quarter of the year. However, it slipped to number five position in China as it faces severe component shortages.

OPPO (includes OnePlus data as well since Q3, 2021) recorded 28 per cent yearly growth with 143.2 million units shipped annually. More importantly, it performed well in its home market of China, and saw growth in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and South-East Asia in the second half. However, supply chain constraints meant that shipment growth was flat in the final quarter.

vivo saw 21 per cent year-on-year (YoY) growth and its strong offline penetration helped the brand reach its highest-ever annual shipments globally. But the final quarter of the year came with setbacks, as it declined by 9 per cent and lost the number one spot in China to Apple.

Other OEMS

Motorola was the fastest-growing brand among the top 10 smartphone OEMs based on annual global shipments. It gained in the US in the sub-$300 price band and took LG’s place. It also continued to perform strongly in Latin America and saw a resurgence in Europe.

Realme entered the top five Android OEMs globally. It did well in markets such as India where it had a record year.

Honor managed to finish its first full year as an independent OEM with a ranking among the top ten smartphone OEMs globally.

Transsion Group continued to perform well in its key markets such as South Asia and the Middle East and Africa. TECNO did well in the entry-tier, while Infinix gained the most in the entry-to mid-tier segment, especially in the countries where it is currently expanding.

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