In a nutshell: Global smartphone sales were down 6.8% in the third quarter of the year, but the slump wasn't due to falling demand: blame the chip crisis. It was a positive Q3 for Apple, though, which has moved ahead of Xiaomi to take the second-largest market share behind leader Samsung.
The data comes from Gartner's latest market intelligence report. The research company notes that the depressingly familiar problem of the chip shortage has seen smartphone sales to end-users fall 6.8% year-on-year.
"Despite strong consumer demand, smartphone sales declined due to delayed product launches, longer delivery schedule and insufficient inventory at the channel," said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. "Supply constraints impacted the production schedule of basic and utility smartphones much more than premium smartphones."
Gartner specifies radio frequency and power management integrated circuits as short-supply components that delayed production and impacted sales. There was, however, good news for phone companies as premium handsets grew in popularity throughout the quarter despite overall sales declining.
Looking at the top five, Samsung retained its position at number one with 69 million sales despite seeing its market share drop 1.9% YoY. The Korean firm was helped by strong demand for its Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 devices.
Apple (48 million) was slightly ahead of Xiaomi (44 million). Gartner writes that upgrades in the iPhone 13 line, such as the bionic A15 sensor and camera, combined with Apple's trade-in programs helped spur sales. Xiaomi, meanwhile, continued its expansion in Europe and the Middle East.
Fourth place Vivo saw the largest yearly growth with a 20.9% rise to 36 million. The third Chinese manufacturer on the list, OPPO, took the fifth position with 33 million sales.
While last year's lockdowns gave smartphone sales a boost, most of the Q3 2021 decline can be attributed to the chip crisis, which is affecting virtually every electronic consumer product (and vehicle) out there, from increasingly expensive graphics cards to consoles. It's even led to some manufacturers selling gaming PCs without dedicated GPUs.
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