The company also shipped its most iPhones ever to distributors in a single quarter, at 81.8 million, according to research published by Singapore-based Canalys late last month. By that measure, Apple has outperformed Samsung on fourth-quarter sales since 2017.
Apple’s double-digit sales growth was achieved despite a shrinking market. Global sales of smartphones slipped 5.4% in the fourth quarter, according to Gartner, amid rising unemployment and weaker consumer spending because of the pandemic. Smartphone sales declined 12.5% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
“Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter,” said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner.
“The iPhone 12 is a hit,” added Canalys analyst Vincent Thielke in last month’s report. “Apple is better positioned than its competitors on 5G, being heavily skewed towards developed markets, and mobile operator sales channels.”
Samsung still on top for the year
Gartner sees global smartphone sales recovering this year. “The rising demand for affordable 5G smartphones outside China will boost smartphone sales in 2021,” said Gupta.