5G is the next significant evolution in the mobile landscape, promising to deliver better and faster connectivity. The technology will also empower plenty of apps and use cases, including cloud gaming on the go.
Our Global Mobile Market Report shows that there will be over 700 million 5G-ready smartphones active in the market this year (a market share of 16%), up from 206 million in 2020.
Despite pandemic-related setbacks in terms of 5G infrastructure and rollout, especially in emerging markets and in the West, manufacturers released an array of 5G-ready handsets last year. And consumers were eager to buy these models, completely shaking up our ranking of the top companies by 5G-ready devices.
Who is leading the 5G-ready pack? In this article, we’ll use our Monthly Active Mobile Device Data to explore the situation. We’ll be looking at 5G-ready smartphones actively used in the market—in terms of general usage, not 5G usage.
Huawei Has Overtaken Samsung as the #1 Manufacturer of 5G-Ready Smartphones
Huawei had an incredible 2020 in terms of its 5G-ready-smartphone sales. Owing to the success of devices such as the P40 series, the company became the 5G-ready market leader at the end of 2020. Huawei’s share of active 5G-ready devices skyrocketed from 8.6% in November to 27.0% in December:
Huawei’s home market, China, remains the leader in 5G device adoption; therefore, it’s no surprise that the company is also leading the market for 5G-ready smartphones.
But Huawei’s future position remains uncertain, owing to the U.S sanctions and the fact that it sold the Honor brand (reportedly due to said sanctions). Soon after this sale, Honor began working with Qualcomm and MediaTek on 5G chips. Nevertheless, Huawei’s impressive market share as of December 2020 is undeniable.
Samsung May Have Dropped to #2, But its 5G-Ready Presence Remains Huge
Samsung was among the first major brands to push 5G in its flagship devices, with 2019’s Galaxy S10 series already offering 5G-readiness. This helped Samsung secure an early foothold in the 5G-ready-smartphone market, especially in its home market of South Korea. Our Monthly Active Mobile Device Data shows that in December 2020:
- South Korea accounted for 21.8% of Samsung’s active 5G-ready smartphones
- The U.S. accounted for 9.1%.
- And Russia accounted for 5.6%.
Samsung has since expanded 5G functionality to its non-flagship handsets, including devices in its Galaxy A series. As of December 2020, over 21.6 million active Galaxy A21 5G handsets were active worldwide, as shown in our Monthly Active Mobile Device Data.
While newer entrants have taken much of the Korean tech giant’s share, Samsung still boasted a 5G-ready market share of 25.1% in December 2020. But its biggest competitor, the other half of the overall-smartphone-market duopoly, might be catching up.
The Success of the iPhone 12 in China and Beyond Brought Apple into the Top 3 for 5G
In mid-October, Apple announced the iPhone 12 series, the first iPhones to support a 5G connection thanks to their mmWave and Sub-6GHz 5G compatibility.
We expected Apple’s foray into smartphones to significantly bolster the uptake of 5G-ready devices, and that’s exactly what happened. After just one flagship release, Apple is now the world’s #3 smartphone brand by 5G-ready devices, boasting a market share just shy of 20% in December 2020.
Apple also enjoyed its best-ever quarter by revenues in its fiscal Q1 2021. In a conference call, CEO Tim Cook revealed that China had a record number of iPhone upgraders during the quarter. Total revenues from Greater China hit $21.3 billion, up +57% from last year.
The iPhone 12’s 5G capability was—and continues to be—one of the major drivers for Chinese consumers upgrading their handsets; after all, the country quickly and effectively rolled out its 5G network infrastructure. This certainly bolstered Apple’s strong 5G-ready performance and is reflected in our Monthly Active Mobile Device Data for December 2020:
- 29.5% of Apple’s active 5G-ready smartphones were in China
- 24.7% were in the U.S.
- And 8.7%% were in Japan.
Naturally, we expect that the iPhone 12 series drive will further 5G-ready adoption in Apple’s key markets (including China, Japan, and the U.S.) this year and beyond.
We also expect to see Chinese brands continuing to perform well in the 5G-ready-smartphone space, including Xiaomi and OPPO, who also saw market-share jumps in December 2020.
One thing is for sure: when infrastructure catches up and the pandemic subsides, consumers across the globe will be ready to take advantage of the next generation in mobile internet technology. But how can companies stay up to date with active (5G-ready) smartphones?
Global and Local Smartphone Usage Data’s Variety of Use Cases
Newzoo clients that subscribe to our Monthly Active Mobile Device Data include some of the world’s biggest tech giants—as well as leading app publishers that have underlined growth countries as a strategic priority.
Others, closer to the telecom sector, ingest the data into their business intelligence (BI) platform, combining it with their shipping or sales data. In the end, this combination of data strengthens companies’ overall mobile market insights and gives them the tools to analyze increasing device lifespans.
The Monthly Active Mobile Device Data can be used as an online dashboard or through API access. The data is updated monthly and is derived from genre- and device-agnostic SDK’s used in hundreds of thousands of apps in China and the rest of the world.
These apps cover over 2 billion of the 3.9 billion smartphones. Each month, a sample of 400 million is used to extract fresh data into the model and—ultimately—the client dashboard or feed.