Global smartphone market set to begin recovery in 2021: TrendForce

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The global smartphone market will slowly start to recover in 2021 after a dismal year, predicts global provider of market intelligence on the technology industries TrendForce.

Global smartphone demand fell year-over-year by 11 percent to 1.25 billion units in 2020. TrendForce expects it to grow by 9 percent to 1.36 million units this year, as people replace old devices and demand in emerging markets increases. But even that small rebound depends on how the pandemic continues to affect the economy and the shortage of global chips, which is currently causing delays in production across almost the entire electronics industry.

TrendForce predicts that China’s Huawei will not benefit from the recovery and, in fact, will fall out of the research firm’s list of the top six smartphone manufacturers in the world by volume of production.

In 2020, Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo were the top six smartphone brands in order of production volume. But this year TrendForce expects Huawei to slip out of that ranking, with the new top-six list consisting of Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo and Transsion.

In 2021, those six companies are projected to account for 80 percent of the global smartphone market, while Huawei will be ranked seventh.

The main reason for the decline in Huawei is the divestment of Honor, its budget smartphone brand. In November, Huawei announced that it was selling Honor to a group of companies to save the supply chain of the division from the effect of trade sanctions by the US government.

The spin-out was meant to shield Honor from the sanctions that have hurt Huawei’s business. But “it remains to be seen whether the ‘new’ Honor can capture consumers’ attention without the support from Huawei. Also, Huawei and the new Honor will be directly competing against each other in the future, especially if the former is somehow freed from the US trade sanctions at a later time,” said TrendForce’s report.

In a previous report published shortly after Honor’s sale was announced, TrendForce predicted that the deal, along with the global chip shortage, meant Huawei would take just 4 percent of the market in 2021, compared to the 17 percent it held in 2019, and estimated 14 percent in 2020.

Apple is expected to take away some market share from Huawei’s high-end smartphones, while Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo will also benefit. TrendForce expects the newly spun-out Honor to take 2 percent market share in 2021.