Global smartphone and tablet sales predictably tanked in Q1 2020 due to COVID-19

Global smartphone and tablet sales predictably tanked in Q1 2020 due to COVID-19

It’s no secret that smartphone and tablet sales are on the decline due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has forced fewer smartphones to be made, planned product launches to be scaled back or delayed, and fewer people to go out and buy devices. Thanks to recently released Q1 2020 sales data, we now know just how bad things are. Renowned analytics companies IDC, Strategy Analytics, Canalys, and CounterpointResearch have independently published data on smartphone and data sales in the first quarter of this year. Here’s a summary of the key findings in each report:

Note: Since each source provides slightly different figures for smartphone sales, market share, etc., we’re only citing each report where there’s unique information.


Counterpoint Research

  • Global smartphone market declined 13% YoY (Q1 2019 to Q1 2020). This is the first time since Q1 2014 that the smartphone market has fallen below 300 million units in a quarter. The decline is mainly driven by a 27% YoY shipment decline in China. As a result, Chinese smartphone market share in the global smartphone market declined from 26% in Q1 2019 to 22% in Q1 2020. CounterpointResearch believes that the impact of COVID-19 on the supply side of smartphones and components could leave OEMs to diversify their supply chain by moving some production to countries like India and Vietnam.
  • The share of 5G smartphone shipments increased from 1% in Q4 2019 to 8% in Q1 2020.
  • Xiaomi (7%) and Realme (157%) were the only major brands to achieve global growth YoY thanks to strong growth in India.
  • Huawei was the only major smartphone brand in China to grow sales, as the company saw a 6% rise to 28.7 million units, which helped the company capture 39% of total smartphone sales in the country.
  • The effect of COVID-19 on the smartphone market will likely be worse in Q2 2020, though mostly in countries still under lockdown. As China is recovering, brands with a larger share in China, like Huawei, will be better positioned. Furthermore, companies that were hit hard by the lockdown in China, like Lenovo, will recover as manufacturing resumes. Brands with a great online presence, like Realme, will do better than those that rely on offline sales. Sales of budget phones will be hit the hardest while sales of premium devices will be least affected.

Strategy Analytics

  • Global 5G smartphone shipments surged past 24 million units in Q1 2020 thanks to higher than expected demand in China. 18.7 million total 5G phones were shipped in 2019.
  • Samsung shipped 8.3 million 5G phones globally in Q1 2020. Huawei (including Honor) was at the second spot at 8 million 5G phones shipped globally. Vivo was third, with 2.9 million shipments of its iQOO 3 and X30 5G.


  • Apple was one of the lest affected vendors thanks to strong sales of the iPhone 11 in early Q1 2020. However, they were still down 8% with 37 million shipments.


  • The first quarter usually sees a decline in shipments quarter over quarter (i.e. Q4 to Q1), with average sequential decline over the last three years being between -15% to -20%. But Q1 2020 has been the largest annual YoY decline ever, with smartphone shipments in China declining 20.3% YoY and shipments in the U.S and Western Europe declining 16.1% and 18.3%, respectively.
  • Samsung retained its top position of 21.1% market share (despite an 18.9% YoY decline) due to the success of its Galaxy A series.
  • Huawei maintained the second position globally, though the company’s global sales decline 17.1%. It managed to offset some of the COVID-19 impact by cutting prices early on the Mate 30, P30, Honor V30, and Honor 9X. Their diversified offline and online sales channels helped reach consumers even during the lockdown.
  • Tablet shipments continued to decline, down 18.2% YoY to 24.6 million units. Meanwhile, detachables grew 56.8% YoY thanks to Apple. Slate tablets saw shipments decline 36.4% YoY. Apple maintained its pole position, followed by Samsung (with a 3.9% growth YoY) and Huawei (with an 8.3% decline YoY).

Interestingly, all reports offer contradictory figures for Chinese OEM Vivo. According to CounterpointResearch, the company saw a 10% YoY decline in Q1 2020. This is in contrast to Canalys, which states that Vivo grew 3% YoY, and IDC, which states that Vivo grew 7% YoY.

Source: CounterpointResearch (1,2), IDC (1,2), StrategyAnalytics, Canalys

About author

Pranob Mehrotra
Pranob Mehrotra

A Literature and Linguistics graduate with a keen interest in everything Android. When not writing about tech, Pranob spends most of his time either playing League of Legends or lurking on Reddit.

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