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realme is the star of a recovering India smartphone market
- India’s smartphone market bounced back in late 2020 after struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- realme was the highlight, with its share growing despite rough conditions.
- Samsung and Xiaomi suffered through much of the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on phone sales, but there’s evidence of a turnaround… for India, at least. Both Canalys and Counterpoint have determined that India smartphone shipments sank slightly overall in 2020, but that there was a resurgence in the second half of the year as key companies claimed market share.
The two analyst groups saw particularly strong double-digit growth in the very last quarter of the year — Counterpoint estimated a 19% hike in shipments, while Canalys suggested a more conservative 13% boost. A post-lockdown surge, content consumption and remote education helped fuel demand, Counterpoint said. It also helped that the Diwali festival in mid-November prompted a spike in phone buying through October.
Certain companies fared better than others, however. Realme was the big winner in India, climbing to 13% market share for all of 2020 — a 24% growth compared to 2019. Other Chinese brands didn’t fare quite as well, but it was evident India’s dispute with China wasn’t hurting at least some phone makers.
Apple also had a banner fourth quarter thanks to the iPhone 12 launch, Counterpoint said, with its “best ever” India shipments, or 1.5 million. OnePlus also watched shipments double during that period thanks to the Nord line.
Read more: The best Android smartphones in India
Some of the biggest names saw their India market share stall. Xiaomi and its POCO badge remained on top with over 26% of the market, but lost a small amount of share both in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the full year. And Samsung, despite its big push for the Galaxy A and M series, didn’t budge significantly past 20% in 2020.
Researchers were optimistic about the outlook for 2021. Hope for a pandemic recovery was unsurprisingly front and center, but the Indian market was also poised to grow thanks to 5G rollouts and the rise of homegrown brands like Micromax and Jio. Whether or not the rest of the world follows is another story — they have their own recoveries to think about, and companies like realme don’t have as much sway in many parts of the world.