2019 was looking like Huawei’s year, coming off a wildly successful 2018 and carrying that momentum into the new year. The firm had just passed Apple for second place in global shipments by several accounts, and had a lofty goal of passing Samsung in 2019.
Unfortunately, all it took was a signed executive order in the U.S. for the Chinese manufacturer to suffer a staggering blow. The U.S. trade ban has choked off Huawei’s supply of software and hardware components, with crucial partners like Google and Arm no longer allowed to deal with the firm. One particular smartphone manufacturer is the big winner as a result of Huawei’s misfortune — Samsung.
Samsung vs Huawei on hold
Apple may have been Samsung’s arch-rival in years gone by, but Huawei has displaced the iPhone maker as the company Samsung should watch. It’s been eating into its low-end and mid-range devices, while also stealing Samsung’s thunder in the flagship tier.
All of this has resulted in Huawei quickly closing the gap to Samsung in terms of shipments. In fact, Counterpoint Research’s Q1 2019 report found the Chinese manufacturer accounted for 17 percent of global smartphone shipments, compared to Samsung’s 21 percent. Huawei was at the 11 percent mark in Q1 2018, while Samsung was sitting at 22 percent.
This sentiment was echoed by tracking firm Canalys. In Q1 2019, Samsung’s shipment market share was reported at 22.8 percent, while Huawei’s was at 18.8 percent. Back in Q1 2018, Canalys reported market share of 23.6 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively.
Unfortunately, the recent U.S. trade ban now means it’s almost guaranteed Huawei won’t sustain this shipment performance. Whether it’s due to delayed smartphone releases as a result of the ban, networks refusing to carry some devices until the saga is over, or consumer panic, it’s clear Huawei probably won’t reach its goal of overtaking Samsung this year. If you think the Korean company can put its feet up and enjoy great sales, well, it’s not that simple.
Making hay while the sun shines
Samsung will need to work extra hard during this time to convert cynics who feel that Huawei is the uncrowned king waiting to claim its throne. After all, Huawei had a ton of sales momentum before the U.S. delivered that devastating strike. But it’s not just about Samsung keeping its number one status in terms of market share — it also needs to prove that it hasn’t lost the innovation crown to Huawei.
It looks like Samsung is in better shape in 2019, but it can't afford to slip up with Huawei under pressure.
Regardless of its checkered past of IP theft allegations, Huawei’s R&D budget has grown exponentially in the last few years. In fact, the firm is reportedly out-spending Apple in this department and spent $15.3 billion last year. Huawei was first to the triple rear camera post with the Huawei P20 Pro, serving up a triple camera phone several months before others followed suit. We’ve also seen several more neat features come to Huawei devices before Samsung too, such as the latest generation night mode, periscope zoom (also available on Oppo’s flagship), super fast 40 watt charging, and reverse wireless charging.
Meanwhile, Samsung was late to the party with features like triple cameras, bigger batteries, and a night mode. Some of these late features, such as in-display fingerprint sensors and reverse wireless charging, can certainly be excused as they arguably aren’t mature yet. But it’s hard to argue that Samsung has been offering more innovative flagships in the last few years.
Samsung’s 2019 wares are certainly a step above last year though, as it’s brought plenty of features to the Galaxy S10 series. It’s also focused on budget devices, launching the Galaxy M series and breathing new life into its Galaxy A range. You simply need to take a look at the Galaxy A80 for proof that Samsung can still wow consumers.
The one major blemish has been the botched Galaxy Fold launch, but fortunately the company seems to be addressing issues before the devices actually go on sale. Either way, Samsung needs to remind everyone why it became number one in the first place if it hopes consumers aren’t simply buying its phones because they have no choice.