While 5G-enabled handsets have technically been around for roughly three years now, it’s safe to say that a lot of potential adopters only became aware of the next-gen cellular technology in the fall of 2020, when the iPhone 12 family was unveiled.
Although that was clearly a turning point for the fledgling 5G smartphone market segment, it apparently took Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo another 15 months or so to reach an important milestone for the mobile industry as a whole.
5G phones are now the norm rather than the exception
According to Counterpoint Research data first reported by Bloomberg, January 2022 was the very first month when 5G phones surpassed their 4G LTE-only counterparts in global sales. The battle was an extremely close one, which means the war might not be over yet, but with 51 percent of the worldwide pie, the iPhone-led 5G army prevailed.
Incredibly enough, Apple absolutely crushed its four aforementioned rivals, with no less than 37 percent of all 5G handset sales. In other words, more than one in three 5G-capable smartphones sold around the world during the first month of this year ran iOS on the software side of things, which is a pretty crazy achievement that could have never been possible without the hugely successful iPhone 13 quartet.
That’s a pretty big January 2022 gap between Apple and… everyone else.
This has managed to prove particularly and almost surprisingly popular in China, which is not just the world’s largest overall smartphone market, but also a region where 5G devices are far more prevalent than stateside, for instance.
Apple’s 5G success around those parts is made that much more remarkable by the presence of local heroes Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo among the world’s top five 5G smartphone vendors. Vivo and Oppo’s global numbers in particular were obviously also boosted by their domestic performance, while Samsung was unsurprisingly disadvantaged by its modest historical presence in the Chinese market.
Get the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro Max in a cool new color
At the end of the day month, Samsung did manage to place second in global 5G handset sales, but the world’s overall largest smartphone manufacturer can’t possibly be happy with its 12 percent slice of this crucial pie.
That number is lower than the 19 percent share of “other” vendors, which seems to suggest this rapidly growing 5G segment is still far more competitive and fragmented than the smartphone market in its entirety.
Samsung will probably make progress, but so will Apple
Brands like Realme, Motorola, OnePlus, TCL, and “others” could be very well-positioned to gain precious market share as 5G smartphones become more and more ubiquitous, while Samsung’s industry supremacy is likely to be challenged by several different companies in the relatively near future.
Of course, the late February release of the seemingly very popular Galaxy S22 lineup may well considerably boost its manufacturer’s 5G sales figures… starting this month, which can be said about Apple too now that the iPhone SE (2022) is (almost) out.
The iPhone SE 3 could solidify Apple’s dominant 5G position.
Back in 2019, when the first 5G-enabled iPhones were still a distant dream, a measly 1 percent of all smartphones sold worldwide came with support for the then-novel technology. Of that 1 percent, Samsung took a commanding early lead of the market, but the iPhone 12 and then iPhone 13 rosters changed everything.
Apple moved into the first spot as quickly as Q1 2021, which was of course the first full quarter after the iPhone 12 launch, grabbing 30 percent of a segment that already represented close to 40 percent of the total market.
Naturally, none of this would have been possible without wireless service providers, which have certainly done their part in spreading the 5G love to more and more places, with higher and higher speeds available everywhere from China to South Korea to the US.