Handsets ready for 5G accounted for more than half of smartphone sales for the first time this year, with Apple’s iPhones lead the mobile industry to that milestone.
Phones with the advanced technology made up 51% of units sold, according to Counterpoint Research data.
5G connectivity is seen as a key enabler for transformative technologies such as autonomous driving and factory automation, with China being among the most aggressive nations in expanding its availability.
China’s telecommunications watchdog has said the country will push 5G coverage by adding 600 000 base stations this year, elevating the total number to well above two million. The country also drives 5G handset sales for the world’s biggest mobile manufacturers.
Domestic brands Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo each had roughly 10% of global 5G sales, the majority of which came in China, the data showed. Apple’s market-leading 37% was also boosted by its strong position in the country.
Samsung Electronics, which was first to introduce 5G-compatible devices in 2019 and remains the world’s biggest smartphone maker, was limited to a 12% share of the global 5G market because of its laggard status in China.
Earlier this month, Apple launched a 5G model in its budget-friendly iPhone SE series, lowering the entry price for faster connectivity to US$429. That’s roughly half the company’s average flagship device price and may help secure its leading sales position.
Apple bought Intel’s cellular modem unit for US$1 billion in 2019 with the intent of building its own 5G chips in the future. US chip designer Qualcomm has largely dominated this business to date, with its Snapdragon systems-on-chip integrating processors and modems into a single module.