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Huawei tops Samsung in smartphone shipments for first time

Coronavirus hits South Korean maker hard while Apple sees growth

Huawei narrowly surpassed Samsung in smarthphone shipments in the second quarter. (Source photos by Getty Images)

SEOUL -- Huawei Technologies surpassed Samsung Electronics in smartphone shipments in the second quarter, becoming the No. 1 player in the global market for the first time, according to multiple reports released on Friday.

Counterpoint Technology Market Research said Huawei shipped 54.8 million smartphones in the April-to-June period, dethroning Samsung, which had 54.2 million shipments. This gave each company a market share of around 20%.

Figures from IDC also showed Huawei overtaking Samsung in number of shipments, a development that both research companies said was linked to the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted markets for much of this year.

"Huawei was able to attain this feat due to a unique market scenario created because of COVID-19. China, Huawei's largest market, is now recovering from the pandemic compared to other markets like Europe, Latin America, and North America," said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint.

Huawei has shifted its focus to its home market in response to the ongoing U.S. crackdown on the company, which has included restricting its access to key American technology and software. Huawei's shipments in China grew 11% in the second quarter year-on-year, Counterpoint said.

Samsung, by contrast, has a negligible presence in China, controlling a mere 1% of the market there. The company said on Thursday that its smartphone sales had declined due to COVID-related store closures in key markets, but it vowed to rebound in the second half of this year with new flagship models. The company will introduce its new Galaxy Note smartphone on Aug. 5 with an online showcase. Its second-quarter shipments declined 29% on the year.

"We believe that Samsung will recover in the coming quarters. As economies improve, Samsung will be aggressively able to cater to the pent-up demand in the post-lockdown period," Counterpoint said in its press release. "For developed markets, the performance of its flagships, Galaxy Note and S series, will be the key driver for its growth together with the mid-tier 5G product portfolio."

Overall, the global smartphone market shrank 24% to 271.4 million units in the second quarter year-on-year, according to Counterpoint, marking its fastest ever decline.

Apple came third with 37.5 million units shipped, giving it a 14% market share. It was the only one of the top three brands to see a year-on-year increase in shipments, logging a 3% uptick. However, Apple launched a new model in the second quarter of this year -- the iPhone SE -- whereas it did not have a new product launch at the same time last year.

"The new SE found success as it managed to effectively target the lower-priced segment, which bodes extremely well for the vendor in this time of crisis where consumers are shifting towards more budget-friendly devices," IDC said.

However, Apple said the launch of its next flagship phone, the iPhone 12, will be delayed by "a few weeks."

Huawei, meanwhile, attributed its achievement to its "resilience" and said it will focus on 5G and AI, among other emerging fields.

"Our business has demonstrated exceptional resilience in these difficult times. Amidst a period of unprecedented global economic slowdown and challenges, we've continued to grow and further our leadership position by providing innovative products and experience to consumers," the company said. "As we look towards the future, where 5G, AI and IoT will grow increasingly ubiquitous, our focus will remain on executing our All-scenario Seamless AI Life Strategy."

China's Xiaomi came fourth by shipments, with a 10% share of the market.

Additional reporting by Cheng-Ting Fang and Lauly Li

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