Samsung led smartphone shipments for 2021, beating out Apple

The No. 1 phone maker shipped more than 270 million devices, according to market researchers IDC and Counterpoint.

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Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Samsung released the Galaxy S21 FE earlier this month.

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Companies shipped 1.35 billion smartphones in 2021, a 5.7% increase over the previous year, market researcher IDC said Thursday. However, supply chain issues meant that fewer phones were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2021 than in the same period a year earlier.

"The supply chain and component shortages started to have meaningful impact on the smartphone market as we entered the second half of the year, and this continues to be the case as we've now entered 2022," said Ryan Reith, an IDC vice president of mobile device research worldwide.

IDC also said it has seen strong interest in foldable phones and 5G phones.

Read more: Best phones to buy for 2022

Samsung retook the top spot for smartphone shipments in 2021, holding 20% market share globally after shipping 272 million phones during the year. Apple came in second, at 235.7 million phones, Xiaomi with 191 million, Oppo with 133.5 million and Vivo with 128.3 million.

Slightly different numbers from Counterpoint Research, also released Thursday, showed similar results: Samsung in first place with 271 million phones shipped during 2021, Apple in second with 237.9 million, Xiaomi with 190 million, Oppo with 143.2 million and Vivo with 131.3 million.

Read also: Best iPhone for 2022: Which of Apple's 8 phones is right for you?

This marks the first time the smartphone market has grown year over year since 2017, according to Counterpoint, with Apple clocking record shipments.

"The global smartphone recovery in 2021 followed a pandemic-hit 2020 and subsequent pent-up demand," said Harmeet Singh Walia, Counterpoint senior analyst, adding that demand was driven by Apple's first 5G phone, the iPhone 12. "The market recovery could have been even better if not for the component shortages."