The longstanding International Olympic Committee (IOC) sponsor Samsung has been overtaken by Apple as the world’s largest smartphone maker, according to new research.
According to the research group Gartner, Apple sold almost 80 million units in the final quarter of 2020, versus just 62 million for its keen South Korean rival.
Gartner attributed the trend in large measure to the launch of the 5G iPhone 12 series.
In terms of the full year 2020, Samsung remained top dog, with a market share of 18.8 per cent, four percentage points higher than Apple.
The overall market shrank by 12.5 per cent in what was a heavily COVID-impacted year.
Having been within sight of 300 million in 2019, Samsung sales dropped 14.6 per cent to 253 million units over the course of last year.
The South Korean conglomerate, which is also the world’s biggest manufacturer of computer chips, has not fared too badly overall during the coronavirus pandemic, partly as a consequence of United States sanctions against competing Chinese products.
Smartphone sales for one Chinese rival, Huawei, slumped by as much as 24 per cent in 2020 to 182.6 million.
The year-on-year contraction in the market was a comparatively modest 5.4 per cent in the final quarter.
Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, attributed this to "the sales of more 5G smartphones and lower to mid-tier smartphones."
He went on: "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."
Samsung is the worldwide The Olympic Partner programme sponsor in the wireless communications equipment and computing equipment product categories.
The company acted as a local sponsor of the Seoul Olympics in 1988, becoming a worldwide partner in the wireless communications equipment category ahead of the Nagano Winter Games a decade later.