Samsung led global annual smartphone shipments in 2021 even as the market saw growth for the first time since 2017, a report by Counterpoint Research has said. The year saw a total smartphone shipments of 1.39 billion units, however, they remained below pre-pandemic level despite the 4 percent annual growth. The market research firm attributes this to continued COVID-19 impacts as well as component shortages. Interestingly, Q4 2021 shipments declined 6 percent on a year-over-year (YOY) basis to reach 371 million units. Meanwhile, Apple saw record shipments, and Xiaomi registered the most growth in absolute number of units shipped.
According to the latest report from Counterpoint Research's Market Monitor service, the global smartphone recovery in 2021 was due to increase in demand in regions like North America, Latin America and India. Growth in the US was driven largely by demand for Apple's first 5G-enabled iPhone 12 series, and it continued throughout the year. The growth in India was registered due to higher replacement rates, better availability and attractive financing options in mid-to high-tier phones.
“However, China, the world's biggest smartphone market, continued to decline due to supply-side issues caused by the ongoing component shortages, as well as demand-side issues resulting from lengthening replacement cycles,” said Harmeet Singh Walia, Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research. He also said that the market recovery could have been even better if not for the component shortages that impacted much of the second half of 2021.
When it comes to OEMs, Samsung shipped 271 million smartphones in 2021, which is up 6 percent from 2020. The increase is attributed to the increased demand for its mid-tier A and M series smartphones. As mentioned, Apple registered a growth of 18 percent on a year-over-year (YoY) basis to reach a record 237.9 million units in 2021 due to strong performance by the iPhone 12 series. Xiaomi's global smartphone shipments grew the most, 31 percent on YoY basis, to reach a record 190 million units last year.
Oppo (which included OnePlus since Q3 2021) registered 28 percent growth with 143.2 million units shipments. Its sister brand Vivo grew by 21 percent YoY to reach annual shipments of 131.3 million units in 2021. Motorola was the fastest-growing brand among the top 10 smartphone OEMs based on annual global shipments. Realme entered the top five android OEMs globally for the first time, and Honor grabbed a spot in the top 10 after its first full year as an independent OEM. Finally, Transsion Group performed well with Tecno and Infinix brands.