During height of the pandemic, global smartphone sales came to screeching halt, as the world took refuge indoors; however, as smartphone manufacturers start developing the next generation of devices, especially with 5G, the market looks headed upwards.
An improving COVID-19 outlook compared to this time last year (the end of Q1 2020 marked the beginning of a major downturn for the EU smartphone market as the pandemic started to take its toll), helped European smartphone sales grow by 6 percent annually in Q1 2021.
However, ongoing COVID-19 challenges across the region means the market is still down slightly on 2019 levels. The market was also helped by new device launches from most major vendors, who continue to fight for market share vacated by Huawei.
According to a recent report by Counterpoint Research, Samsung was the main winner of the quarter, having regained the top spot from Apple (although Apple is still the clear leader in France, Germany, and the UK). Xiaomi’s performance was equally impressive, particular in Southern Europe.
In March, Xiaomi overtook Samsung to become the largest smartphone vendor in Spain, and it grabbed the number two spot in Italy at the expense of Apple. Xiaomi now accounts for a fifth of smartphone sales in Europe, almost triple its market share 18 months ago.
According to Counterpoint Research’s Associate Director, Jan Stryjak, Q1 2021 was a prime example of the intensely competitive nature of the EU smartphone market.
“January saw Apple as the clear leader following its most successful device launch ever; Samsung rebounded in February on the back of strong sales of its latest flagship Galaxy S21 series and popular Galaxy A series; and then Xiaomi reached its highest market share in Europe ever in March thanks to the launch of its own flagship Mi11 devices,” Stryjak said in a statement.
He added that OPPO, OnePlus, realme and vivo also continued to grow strongly, with most having launched new devices in the quarter.
As predicted, it’s going to be a fascinating year.
Counterpoint’s Research Director, Peter Richardson highlighted that the strong momentum in Q4 2020 carried over to 2021, and an improving COVID-19 situation thanks to accelerating vaccination programs will lay the foundation for a full year recovery.
The growing market will also see increased competition among vendors: Samsung and Apple both improved on their market share in Q1 2021, and their leadership positions will come under renewed challenge by a host of Chinese entrants, led by a fast-moving Xiaomi, which reached 20 percent market share for the first time in March,” Richardson noted.
In the case of OPPO and vivo, the research director stressed that both companies are hoping their to-and-fro battle for leadership in their home market of China can lead to increased momentum in Europe too.