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Huawei's phone business could be a ghost of its former self in 2021

The US trade ban could kick it out of the world's top six brands.

Published onJanuary 5, 2021

HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro showing the home screen at an angle on a bench
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority
  • TrendForce estimates that HUAWEI will ship just 45 million phones in 2021, a fraction of the 170 million from 2020.
  • That would kick it out of the top six phone makers in the space of a year.
  • US trade bans would be largely responsible for the decline.

You were probably expecting HUAWEI’s 2021 phone sales to take a hit due to US trade bans, but a new estimate suggests it could be a particularly brutal decline. As the South China Morning Post reports, TrendForce has estimated that HUAWEI will ship just 45 million phones in 2021 versus 170 million in 2020 — enough to drop from third place in market share to seventh, below Tecno’s parent company Transsion.

huawei market share 2021 trendforce
Jon Fingas / Android Authority

American sanctions would unsurprisingly play a large role in HUAWEI’s market share drop, according to TrendForce. While analysts weren’t specific about how these measures would limit HUAWEI, the issue isn’t just that HUAWEI can’t deal with US companies directly — it’s also losing access to the manufacturing it needs for cutting-edge components. It can’t turn to TSMC or Samsung to make chips, and even China-based SMIC faces US-imposed limitations. The Mate 40 is a swan song for HUAWEI’s high-end devices, and that will hurt the company’s phone sales in 2021.

HUAWEI will also have to compete against its former HONOR brand, TrendForce noted. While it’s uncertain how well HONOR will fare as an independent company, it’s reportedly planning to ship more phones than HUAWEI in 2021. HUAWEI will have “more difficulty” reclaiming market share, researchers said.

Related: Is Xiaomi the new HUAWEI?

Rivals aren’t expected to see much of a shakeup, although competition could intensify. Samsung would continue to lead with an estimated 267 million phones shipped, but that would only be a slight gain over last year’s 264 million. Apple would close the gap considerably with 229 million iPhones shipped (up from 199 million), while HUAWEI’s Chinese competitors Xiaomi, OPPO, and vivo would all ship tens of millions more phones to take HUAWEI’s place.

These are estimates, and it won’t be surprising if HUAWEI’s real-world market share varies. If the predictions hold up, however, HUAWEI’s phone sales will be a shadow of their former selves in 2021. The once-dominant phone giant could soon be just another mid-tier brand fighting for modest sales gains.