Smartphone shipments jump by 13% as market returns toward sustained growth

Worldwide smartphone shipments hit 313.2 million units in the second quarter of 2021, slightly surpassing IDC's forecast.

people using cell phones

Image: iStock/ViewApart

The global smartphone market appears headed back toward a period of sustained growth, according to the latest report from research firm IDC. Looking at the second quarter, IDC's preliminary data pegged smartphone shipments at 313.2 million for a growth rate of 13.2% from a year ago, slightly beating the firm's projection of 12.5%.

SEE: Top 5G smartphones of 2020 (TechRepublic)

Every region around the world kicked in higher shipments for the quarter with the exception of China, which saw a 10% drop due to a lack of new flagship products, a downturn in demand, and the continued decline of smartphone maker Huawei. Overall though, the global smartphone market has evaded the supply constraints that have hurt other industries, helping it better meet heavy consumer demand.

"The pandemic is far from over, yet consumers around the world continue to show the need for mobile devices and a willingness to spend in these categories," Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Mobile and Consumer Device Trackers, said in a press release. "Shipments of 5G devices are on the rise, especially as price points go down, but we continue to believe that consumers are not yet buying specifically for 5G. They are buying because they need a replacement device, and in some cases a first-time smartphone."

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Image: IDC

Though Huawei saw its fortunes continue to fall, China's other major vendors more than picked up the slack. With shipments of 53 million last quarter and a growth rate of 86.6%, Xiaomi carved out a 16.9% slice of the market, helping it grab second place from Apple.

In third place, Apple still saw a gain of 17.8% based on shipments of 44.2 million, giving it a 14.1% share of the market. Chinese vendor OPPO came in fourth place with shipments of 32.8 million and a 10.5% share, followed by Vivo with 31.6 million in shipments and a 10.1% chunk of the market.

"Globally, all Chinese brands are growing rapidly, with Xiaomi hitting record volume this quarter," Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Mobile and Consumer Device Trackers, said in the press release. "Another rising star is realme, which saw the fastest year-over-year growth among the top 10 at 149% and more than three quarters of its volume coming from outside China. As all these Chinese brands increase their focus in regions like Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa, the competition will only get more intense for the likes of Samsung and other players in those markets."

Further, Huawei's decline and LG's exit from the smartphone arena leave a market up for grabs. In China and the U.S., where Huawei and LG had seen healthy demand, different companies stand to pick up that extra market share. In the U.S., Motorola, TCL, and OnePlus saw higher growth than in prior years due to LG's departure. And in China, Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo and Apple continue to gain customers due to Huawei's decline.

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By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.