Xiaomi smartphones seize No.1 position—but Samsung’s and Apple’s upcoming releases will challenge its lead

The news: Xiaomi overtook Samsung to become the world’s No. 1 smartphone company for the first time ever, per Counterpoint Research.

Xiaomi passed Apple last month—becoming the second-largest global smartphone vendor as measured by shipments during Q2—on the strength of its unprecedented 83% YoY growth in Western Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

Samsung slipped to the No. 2 position in global smartphone rankings in June 2021, per Counterpoint. Samsung’s market share dropped to 15.7% as Xiaomi rose to the No. 1 position behind a rise in market share of 17.1%.

Xiaomi’s stratospheric climb is partly a result of rival Huawei’s misfortune. Only a year ago, Huawei became the No.1 smartphone maker. But its reign was short-lived, as it was hit with various sanctions. Expansion into Huawei’s strongholds in Europe and Southeast Asia helped Xiaomi grow its market share overseas.

Why it's worth watching: Xiaomi’s success is built on entry-level and mid-range smartphones in emerging markets, with prices hovering around 40% and 75% cheaper than Samsung and Apple devices, respectively. Both Samsung and Apple are starting to reach market saturation, especially for flagship devices.

  • Samsung: Its Unpacked event this week will help launch Samsung’s latest premium smartphones and foldables, including updated Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip products. Twitter smartphone leaker Evan Blass has revealed the first Android-powered smartwatches, created in tandem with Google and Fitbit, and new noise-canceling earbuds. Samsung is trying to expand into new product segments that it can dominate as the smartphone market continues to plateau.
  • Apple: Its new iPhones will include pro-focused camera and video updates, per Bloomberg. Last year’s iPhone 12 launch coincided with a splashy 5G rollout, which resulted in wide adoption of iPhones. Since 2021 is an iterative year for iPhones, new models will feature incremental upgrades—likely focused on camera performance and pro-level video recording features—which may not attract as many users.

The takeaway: It remains to be seen if Xiaomi can hold onto the smartphone leadership position in the face of Samsung’s and Apple’s upcoming smartphone releases. Xiaomi does have a lot of room to grow, especially in emerging markets, while Samsung’s and Apple’s growth continues to plateau globally.