Research firm TrendForce is forecasting that the global smartphone market will reach 1.36 billion units produced in 2021, up from the record-breaking 11% year-over-year decrease in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the top six smartphone brands remained the same in 2020 – Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo. But this could change with Honor’s plans to spin-off and operate as an independent smartphone maker as well as if there is any change in the U.S. trade sanctions for the Huawei brand.
TrendForce believes that the global smartphone market will gradually recover as people become accustomed to the “new normal” resulting from the pandemic. This year will also likely see a strong wave of device replacement demand and demand growth in the emerging markets.
Should TrendForce’s predictions ring true, the company believes that global smartphone production in 2021 will increase by 9% to 1.36 billion units. Due to the changes with Honor as well as U.S. export restrictions, TrendForce believes that Huawei will slip from third place in terms of market share in 2020 to seventh place in 2021. In its place may be Transsion, says the firm, which predicts that together, the top-six smartphone makers will account for 80% of the global market.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic remains the central variable that will dictate production, along with geopolitical instabilities and the back of available production capacity in the semiconductor foundry market.
In terms of the types of devices, TrendForce forecasts that penetration rate of 5G smartphones is likely to rise to 37% in 2021, while production will still be constrained by limited foundry capacities.
Due to the Chinese government’s aggressive push for 5G commercialization in 2020, global 5G smartphone production for the year reached about 240 million units, a 19% penetration rate, with Chinese brands accounting for almost a 60% market share. While 5G will remain a major topic in the smartphone market this year, various countries will also resume their 5G infrastructure build-out, and mobile processor manufacturers will continue to release entry-level and mid-range 5G chips. Thus, the penetration rate of 5G smartphones is expected to undergo a rapid increase to 37% in 2021, for a yearly production of about 500 million units, says TrendForce.