Mobile operators may only be starting to roll out 5G around the world but that didn’t stop consumers snapping up 5G-enabled phones last year, industry figures show.
New statistics from Strategy Analytics shows global 5G smartphone shipments grew to 18.7 million units from zero in 2019 on higher-than-expected demand for phones, including Huawei's Mate 20X 5G and Samsung Note 10 5G.
Huawei jumped into lead position in terms of mobile phone manufacturers with 37 per cent global share after shipping 6.9 million 5G smartphones, with almost all of its sales in China. Samsung followed closely behind on 36 per cent share with 6.7 million phones shipped.
"Demand for 5G smartphones is higher than many expected. Fierce vendor competition in China and heavy carrier subsidies across South Korea have been the main drivers of 5G demand. Other regions, like the US and Europe, are lagging behind Asia, but we expect them to close the gap later this year," said Ken Hyers, director at Strategy Analytics.
The Chinese vendor Vivo came third in terms of units shipped last year, capturing 11 per cent of the market with two million 5G smartphones sold.
Xiaomi shipped 1.2 million 5G smartphones worldwide in 2019, capturing 6 per cent of market share. According to Strategy Analytics, the company is quietly making headway in western Europe, with popular models such as the Mi Mix 3 5G.
LG, which is heavily focused on North America and South Korea, shipped 900,000 5G smartphones worldwide in 2019, giving it 5 per cent market share.
Strategy Analytics forecast that 5G smartphone sales would rise sharply again this year as more models hit the market. However, it warned that, with the coronavirus outbreak currently restricting trade in some parts of China, there may be a slowdown in supply or demand with the research company warning of “bumpy 5G sales” in some markets.