The world’s five best-selling smartphones of 2021 are all iPhones
March 9, 2022
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by Stephen Kanyi

It’s no longer a big secret that 2021 was a great year for Apple and only a so-so year for Samsung in a global smartphone market that managed to rebound to the pre-pandemic sales numbers of 2019 despite facing yet another tough challenge in a widespread chip shortage.

According to one report published back in January, iPhone shipments surged roughly 16 percent around the world compared to 2020, humbling Samsung’s year-over-year Galaxy handset sales growth of just 6 percent.

It’s no longer a big secret that 2021 was a great year for Apple and only a so-so year for Samsung in a global smartphone market that managed to rebound to the pre-pandemic sales numbers of 2019 despite facing yet another tough challenge in a widespread chip shortage.

According to one report published back in January, iPhone shipments surged roughly 16 percent around the world compared to 2020, humbling Samsung’s year-over-year Galaxy handset sales growth of just 6 percent.

And the world’s best-selling smartphone is…

Apple’s iPhone 12! Yes, the people have spoken, and for the second year in a row, they’ve chosen a reasonably priced non-Pro high-ender with a large notch and not-so-large screen as their champion.

Given that the “standard” iPhone 11 topped a similar list for 2020 and 2018’s iPhone XR became the most popular handset in the world in 2019, it’s definitely not surprising to see the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 win 2021’s heavyweight title.

Things get a lot more interesting starting in second place, where the iPhone 12 Pro Max edges out the iPhone 13, 12 Pro, and iPhone 11 with 2.2 percent of total global smartphone sales registered during 2021.

While Counterpoint Research doesn’t care to convert that share into an actual sales figure, it’s fairly easy for us to do just that based on the firm’s recent 1.39 billion unit estimate for the market as a whole.

Long story short, it looks like Apple may have sold around 30 million copies of the iPhone 12 Pro Max alone last year, as well as anywhere between 27 and 29 million units for each of the iPhone 13, 12 Pro, and 11 models. The iPhone 12, meanwhile, probably exceeded 40 million unit sales, which is actually far less impressive than iPhone 11’s 2020 haul as approximated by Omdia.

Basically, Apple seems to have managed to significantly broaden the appeal of its entire product portfolio, iPhone SE (2020) and iPhone 13 Pro Max included, kicking Samsung out of the top five completely and jumping from five to seven hugely successful models. That’s an even more remarkable feat if you consider the low 2021 popularity of the iPhone 12 mini and 13 mini.

No (widespread) love for the Galaxy S21 family

Let’s be honest, it’s not shocking that 2021’s top ten list includes zero Samsung high-enders. After all, that was also the case in 2020 and 2019, and all evidence appears to suggest the S21 series was even less successful than the S20 and S10 families of previous years.

But the mid-range Galaxy A50 and A51 placed fourth in 2019 and 2020 respectively, so it must be disheartening for Samsung that the Galaxy A52 was evidently far less popular than its forerunners.

The same goes for the company’s follow-ups to the likes of the Galaxy A01 and A21s, although for what it’s worth, the low-end Galaxy A12 did manage to carry the A10 and A11’s torch, (barely) keeping Samsung on the scoreboard.

Xiaomi unsurprisingly took advantage of its rival’s low to mid-end segment woes, capturing not one but two of the top ten spots thanks primarily to the massive China, India, and Asia-Pacific success of the ultra-affordable Redmi 9A and Redmi 9.

In total, Counterpoint Research tracked more than 4,200 (!!!), active smartphone models, around the world last year, although the ten best-selling devices accounted for a significantly higher share of sales than back in 2020, suggesting more and more companies are working towards making their portfolios “leaner” and focusing on “leading” models.

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