The authors are analysts of NH Investment & Securities. They can be reached at, and, respectively. – Ed.


In 2020, weighed upon by the Covid-19 crisis, global smartphone shipments are expected to slide to 1.3bn units (-12.1% y-y), the lowest level since 2013. But, demand is likely to start recovering from 2H20 onwards, helped by both new product effects and the arrival of shopping peak seasonality. In 2021, helped by both Covid-19-driven low-base effects and a rise in releases of 5G-capable smartphone models, global smartphone shipments should jump to 1.42bn units, showing the strongest growth since 2015.

By quarter, while y-y decline in quarterly shipments are to be unavoidable until 4Q20, the pace of such decrease will likely slow from -22.7% (y-y) in 2Q20 to -9.8% (y-y) in 3Q20 to -3.6% (y-y) in 4Q20. Next year, global smartphone shipments are expected to climb 9.8% y-y in 1Q21, and display robust growth in 2Q21 in response to low-base effects from 2Q20, the time period when the Covid-19 crisis took its greatest toll.

Shipment forecasts, by company

By company, excluding Huawei, which is facing difficulties in securing parts due to the US’s sanctions, we believe that handset makers overall will show y-y rises in their sales figures in 2021. Among handset players, we expect SEC, Huawei’s major competitor, to benefit most from the US’s restrictions on Huawei.

SEC is forecast to report smartphone shipments of 264.6mn units (-10.9% y-y, M/S 20.4%) in 2020. The IT giant’s sales are set to show notable improvement in 2H20, backed by aggressive promotions (such as price discounts) as well as effects from both tightened US restrictions on Huawei and conflict between India and China. In 2021, with impacts from the US’s sanctions on Huawei to materialize in earnest, SEC is expected to see an increase in sales to 312.2mn units (+18% y-y), and enjoy the strongest M/S (22%) since 2015. SEC could enjoy even stronger sales growth next year if the US further strengthens its sanctions on Huawei.

As for Huawei, its sales are expected to decline to 212.9mn units (-10.8% y-y, M/S 16.4%) in 2020. The situation could grow worse in 2021, as a decline in production appears inevitable from 4Q20, given that the US’s sanctions have made it difficult for Huawei to secure core parts (such as APs and modem chips) for its smartphone production. It is even possible that Huawei’s smartphone shipments drops to 50mn units in 2021 or that Huawei withdraws from the smartphone market altogether.

Meanwhile, Apple is projected to book sales of 195.9mn units (+0.1% y-y, M/S 15.1%) in 2020, showing modest growth even amid Covid-19, helped by the release of 5Gcapable smartphone models.

Major Chinese handset makers such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo are expected to enjoy a recovery in shipments from 2021 onwards, helped by both benefits from US restrictions on Huawei and M/S expansion in major overseas markets.



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