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Huawei takes Samsung's crown as world's No. 1 phone maker, analysts say

Samsung and Apple held the top spot for years, but Canalys Counterpoint and IDC say the coronavirus pandemic gave the Chinese company the edge.

Huawei Y6P

Huawei shipped 55.8 million devices in the second quarter of 2020, according to Canalys.

César Salza / CNET

Huawei shipped more phones worldwide than any other vendor for the first time in 2020's second quarter, tech market analysts Canalys, Counterpoint and IDC reported. It's the first time in nine years anyone other than Samsung or Apple has been market leader, Canalys said.

The embattled Chinese phone-maker shipped 55.8 million devices, down 5% year on year, compared to Samsung's 53.7 million smartphones -- a 30% fall drop, according to Canalys' research.

Much of the growth comes from mainland China, where it made 70% of its sales. Its overseas shipments fell 27% in the quarter, partially due to US government restrictions, the analyst noted.

"If it wasn't for COVID-19, it wouldn't have happened. Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to reignite its smartphone business," Ben Stanton, a Canalys senior analyst, said in a press release. "Samsung has a very small presence in China, with less than 1% market share, and has seen its core markets, such as Brazil, India, the United States and Europe, ravaged by outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns."

Huawei also "did well" in markets like Russia and Ukraine, Counterpoint noted. 

"As markets outside China recover, it will be difficult for Huawei to maintain this lead in coming quarters," associate director Tarun Pathak said in Counterpoint's release.

People were also spending more on tech such as PCs, monitors and tablets due to working from home and distance learning, according to IDC, so they were less likely to buy a new phone.

In a statement, Huawei touted its "exceptional resilience" during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Amidst a period of unprecedented global economic slowdown and challenges, we've continued to grow and further our leadership position by providing innovative products and experience to consumers," a spokesperson said.

Read more: Not just Huawei: A guide to China's biggest and best smartphone makers  

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