China’s Huawei Technologies snatched the title of biggest smartphone seller from Samsung Electronics in the second quarter, underscoring the resilience of the China market even as global demand for phones plunged amid the pandemic.
Huawei shipped 55.8 million devices in the April-June period, trumping Samsung’s 53.7 million, according to data from research firm Canalys.
There’s not much in it and phone companies can, sometimes do, manipulate ‘shipping’ data. Numbers for China are notoriously rubbery.
Yet Huawei snatching the phone sales crown from Samsung marks an important turning point. Five years ago at the Huawei P8 phone launch in Singapore, consumer business group CEO Richard Yu told me his goal was to beat Samsung.
Beat Samsung, challenge Apple
Yu also said Huawei plans to challenge Apple. Samsung may have been the best selling phone brand, but Apple is the one that makes all the money and is recognised by its rivals as the leader. That’s another story.
What’s remarkable about Huawei passing Samsung this year is the company can’t sell a thing in the US, one of the largest markets. It is also hamstrung by US sanctions that mean it can’t use new American-made technology from companies like Google or Microsoft. Most important of all, this means Android.
The pandemic could have been another barrier between Huawei and its phone sales ambition. Covid-19 hit China hard early on and disrupted the country’s supply chains.
Huawei made it to the top rank on the back of dominating sales in China, the world’s biggest phone market.
It’s not all good news for Huawei. The company’s phone sales were down five percent when compared with the same period a year ago. Meanwhile Samsung sales fell 30 percent. Huawei’s non-China sales fell by almost as much: 27 percent.
It’s likely normal service will be resumed when markets recover from the pandemic. Samsung can press home its Android advantage. The company has moved closer to Google since the US pushed its main rival away from the search giant.
There’s a possibility the lack of Android and Google services has yet to sink in with Huawei’s non-China customers.
Yet for now, we can let Huawei enjoy reaching its long-held goal.