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Smartphone sales drop 20% in Q2 due to coronavirus pandemic, analyst says

Out of the top five vendors, Samsung saw the biggest drop in sales, Gartner says.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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2 min read

Companies including Samsung and Apple saw year-over-year declines in phone sales in Q2 2020, according to Gartner. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Global smartphone sales dropped 20.4% in the second quarter of 2020, according to a Tuesday report by Gartner. The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the phone industry, the research firm says, with worldwide sales dropping to 295 million units.

Out of the top five smartphone vendors, Samsung  saw the biggest drop in sales. The company sold around 55 million smartphone in the second quarter, a decline of 27.1% year over year. The company released its Galaxy S20 lineup earlier this year. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic continued to negatively affect Samsung's performance in the second quarter of 2020," Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "Demand for its flagship S Series smartphones did little to revive its smartphone sales globally."

Meanwhile, Apple's sales were almost flat year-over-year, Gartner said. Huawei's year-over-year phone sales also fell 6.8%, but the 27.4% quarter-over-quarter growth it saw led it to nearly tie with Samsung for the number one spot. 

Last month, tech market analysts CanalysCounterpoint and IDC said Huawei  shipped more phones worldwide than any other vendor for the first time in the second quarter of 2020. The analysts credited the coronavirus pandemic with giving the Chinese company the edge. 

According to Gupta, Huawei "captured 42.6% of China's smartphone market in the second quarter," and "benefited from the strong support of communications services providers for its 5G smartphones."

As almost all major markets but China continued to see shelter-in-place restrictions for much of the quarter, demand for smartphones continued to drop, Gartner said. 

"The improved situation in China saw demand recovering quarter-over-quarter," Gupta said. "Travel restrictions, retail closures and more prudent spending on nonessential products during the pandemic led to the second consecutive quarterly decline in smartphone sales this year."

Apple's sales did grow quarter-over-quarter, Gartner noted, though they dropped 0.4% year-over-year.  iPhone sales did better in the second quarter than most smartphone vendors, said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner. China's improved business environment helped Apple grow there, Zimmermann noted, and the launch of the lower-priced iPhone SE helped push users of older devices to opt for an upgrade.

Even as demand increased, China's phone sales dropped 7% in the second quarter, with around 94 million units sold. India's rigorous lockdowns led to "the worst smartphone sales decline (-46%) among the top five countries in the world," according to Gartner.