2 Feb 2022

Smartphone market growth in 2021

A recent report from market analyst Counterpoint shows the smartphone market saw 4% growth in 2021 to reach 1.39 billion units. This is the first market expansion since 2017 and saw Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo recording their highest ever annual shipments.

Despite suffering from component shortages and seeing lockdowns at its Vietnamese production facilities, Samsung Mobile was the number one vendor with total annual shipments of 271 million units. Demand was mostly driven by Samsung’s mid-end handsets. Particularly the A-series that delivers competitive camera specifications, including some models with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS). The brand is also seeing continued success and high growth rates for its folding smartphones.

Apple saw strong sales in 2021 driven by its 5G enabled iPhone 12 models. In Q4 it took top spot both in China and the global market. This is because of the positive reception of the iPhone 13 range with relatively low starting prices. Apple was further helped in China by the ongoing US trade restrictions impacting Huawei which previously held a dominant position in its home market.

Both Xiaomi and Oppo saw shipments increase by nearly a third from the previous year. Xiaomi battled severe component shortages but was buoyed by impressive sales in India where it is currently the top selling brand. Oppo also experienced component shortages particularly towards the end of the year but maintained strong performance in its home market. Vivo grew by just over a fifth, bolstered by sales in retail stores and good performance in the high-mid end segment.

Last year LG Electronics decided to withdraw from the smartphone market leaving the top five vendors to hold more than 80% of the market. Some bright lights emerging from the other brands include Honor, Realme and Transsion. Since spinning out from Huawei, Honor has now established itself in the global top ten and has taken fourth place in China. Transsion Holdings with brands including Tecno and Infinix is gaining a foothold in the market though good performance in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Despite these brands typically being associated with low end products, most are releasing models with high-end camera specifications, including OIS, clearly positioning themselves to be more competitive in higher price tiers.

Analysts were generally upbeat about the overall market and future growth, the key risk being ongoing limited supply of semiconductors. Singh Walia from Counterpoint remarked:

 “The market recovery could have been even better if not for the component shortages that impacted much of the second half of 2021. The major brands navigated the component shortages comparatively better and hence managed to grow by gaining share from long-tail brands.”

As we look to 2022, CML expects to see OIS actuator shipment growth to outpace handsets, thanks to broader adoption of more ambitious camera specifications across most of the major brands. We expect to see adoption of new actuator technologies such as sensor shift OIS from OEMs other than Apple, and further image sensor size increases. We also expect to see further adoption of SMA actuator technology in 2022. SMA’s key advantages of high force, high precision and small form factor lend themselves well to the smartphone camera market, and CML has several new design wins already committed in 2022 at new and existing customers.