Apple becomes the undisputed leader in the premium smartphone segment in every region [REPORT]

The global smartphone industry has seen a lot of changes in the last few years, but one thing has remained constant: Apple's dominance in the premium smartphone market. In 2021, Apple surprisingly emerged as the top OEM in the premium segment in every region. What does Apple do differently than other Android OEMs to maintain its dominance?

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The worldwide adoption of premium smartphones (>$400 wholesale ASP) has phenomenally increased over the last 5 years. Top smartphone OEMs such as Apple, Samsung, Vivo, OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi continue to launch their premium devices with some jaw-dropping features and prices every year, to grab the sizable share of the market. The global premium smartphone market sales in 2021 grew an all-time high of 24% YoY, according to Counterpoint Research’s Market Pulse Service. What’s more interesting is, the growth in the premium segment outpaced the overall global smartphone sales growth of 7% YoY.

The sales growth of premium smartphones worldwide in 2021 was driven by a variety of factors such as replacement demand, OEM strategies, supply chain dynamics, upgrades to the affordable-premium segment in emerging economies, and replacement demand for 5G devices in advanced economies.

It’s worth noting that in 2021, the premium segment alone accounted for 27% of global smartphone sales, the highest share ever.

Apple share in global premium smartphone market

The global smartphone industry has seen a lot of changes in the last few years, but one thing has remained constant: Apple’s dominance in the premium smartphone market.

In 2021, Apple emerged as the top smartphone OEM in the premium segment in every region, including North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, India, China, the Rest of APAC, the Middle East and Africa. Apple’s share in the global premium smartphone market increased to 60% in 2021, from 55% in 2020. The growth in Apple’s premium smartphone sales share was primarily driven by the strong 5G upgrades for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series. The delayed launch of iPhones in 2020 also pushed demand into 2021.

Samsung stood at second place with a 17% share in the global premium segment in 2021. Despite a 6% YoY increase in premium smartphone sales in the segment, the OEM lost 3 percentage points in market share.

Apple dominance in India, China

It is also important to note that after six years, Apple finally surpassed Vivo in Q4 2021 to become China’s top smartphone brand. Apple’s share in China smartphone market peaked at 23% during the fourth quarter. The Cupertino behemoth last led the market in Q4 2015, when the iPhone 6 supercycle was at its peak.

For years, Apple has been facing criticism for its absurd pricing strategy in India. However, the company has expanded its retail presence in the country by opening its first retail store in Mumbai. Apple has moved the manufacturing of some iPhone models to India in order to take advantage of various government schemes and lower import tariffs. As a result, OEM dominated India’s premium segment in 2021, with OnePlus and Samsung trailing in second and third places, respectively, which is worthy of praise.

It will be interesting to see if any Android OEMs can eat into Apple’s market share by launching high smartphones in the coming months.

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