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Apple takes back crown as world's No. 1 phone maker, analyst says

It overtakes Samsung for the first time in four years, according to Gartner.

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The iPhone 12 helped Apple get to the top in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple became the world's top phone maker in the fourth quarter of 2020, Gartner reported Monday, with the launch of the 5G iPhone 12 helping it beat Samsung for the first time since 2016. It sold 79.9 million iPhones in that period, a 14.9% increase year-on-year.

Samsung sold 62.1 million phones in that quarter, a decrease of 11.8% compared to 2019. It was followed by Xiaomi's 43.4 million (a 33.9% increase) and Oppo with 34.4 million (a jump of 12.8%), according to the analyst.

Huawei suffered a major slide due to sanctions placed by the US government, declining 41.1% year over year to sell 34.3 million phones. The Chinese company agreed to sell its Honor budget phone brand in November and is reportedly preparing to cut its 2021 phone production by 60%.

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Global phone sales declined 5.4% to 384.6 million overall, Gartner noted.

"Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter," Anshul Gupta, Gartner's  senior research director, said in a release.

Samsung remained on top for overall 2020 phone sales, with 253 million (a 14.6% decline compared to 2019), while Apple saw a 3.3% increase with 199 million, the analyst reported.

See also: iPhone 12 review: One of our highest-rated phones of all time