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Samsung nabbed 74% of 5G smartphone sales in the US last year

Analysts expect expanding 5G coverage and a rumored 5G iPhone to drive more demand in 2020.

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Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Angela Lang/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G was the best-selling 5G phone in the US last year, according to market research firm Counterpoint Research. Counterpoint estimates that less than 2 million 5G-capable smartphones were sold in the US in 2019, accounting for less than 1% of overall smartphone sales. Samsung accounted for 74% of 5G phone sales, followed by LG and OnePlus.

"5G smartphone sales were below expectations in the US in 2019 due to multiple reasons," Jeff Fieldhack, director for Counterpoint Research, said in a release Tuesday. He pointed to the high price of 5G phones as well as limited 5G coverage in the US. 

counterpoint
Counterpoint

5G promises to significantly boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks, but for now a lot of those promises remain unfulfilled. Coverage remains spotty, in relatively few cities, and there are limited devices. Samsung was one of the few companies to launch more than one 5G phone last year.

Counterpoint expects numbers to rise near midyear 2020, because of the expansion of 5G coverage and the rumored release of a 5G iPhone from Apple. Fieldhack said he expects that by the end of 2020, 5G smartphone sales will have risen from 1% of all US smartphone purchases to around 25%. 

He cautioned, however, that manufacturing disruption from the coronavirus and its associated respiratory illness, COVID-19, will likely negatively impact overall smartphone sales. 

Read more: Best 5G-ready phones: Galaxy S10, OnePlus 7 Pro, LG V50, Note 10 Plus and more