The big picture: Research and advisory firm Gartner has revealed that global sales of smartphones to end users slid more than 20 percent in the first quarter (20.2 percent, to be exact), the direct result of economic uncertainty related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Anshul Gupta, a senior research analyst at Gartner, it was the worst decline ever for the global smartphone market.

Gartner's numbers show that four of the top five global smartphone vendors experienced a decline in the first quarter of 2020 - the sole exception being Xiaomi, which squeaked by with a tiny 1.4 percent gain. Top-ranked Samsung watched as smartphone sales slid by 22.7 percent in the quarter but it could have been much worse.

As Gupta highlights, a limited presence in China and the location of manufacturing facilities outside of the country both helped the company avoid steeper declines.

It was even worse for Huawei as sales declined by 27.3 percent, down to 42.5 million units. Still, the company managed to clinch the second-place spot with 14.2 percent of the market share. Looking ahead, however, Huawei will have a challenging year, Gupta added, due to Google's apps not being on new devices. As a result, international buyers are likely to pass on Huawei phones.

Apple, meanwhile, saw sales dip by 8.1 percent year-over-year. Had Covid-19 not happened, said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner, Apple would have likely seen iPhone sales reach record levels in the quarter.

Image credit: Bodnar Taras, Antonio Guillem