Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, once the world’s largest handset vendor, will fall to seventh place in global smartphone shipment rankings in 2021 according to a report published Tuesday.

Why it matters: Huawei is losing its status as a smartphone powerhouse following US sanctions over the past two years. The company has been cut off from the global semiconductor supply chain and now relies on stockpiles to maintain production. To increase its chances of survival, it sold in November its budget handset brand Honor, which is now becoming a rival. 

Details: Huawei is expected to ship 45 million smartphones in 2021, ranking seventh among global vendors, according to a Trendforce report published Tuesday. Huawei shipped 170 million units in 2020, ranking third globally, according to the report.

  • The changes in Huawei’s smartphone sales owe both to the US export restrictions and the Honor spin-off, according to Trendforce.
  • Honor will become a direct competitor, thus making it harder for Huawei to regain market share for smartphones, the report said.
  • Samsung will remain the world’s largest smartphone vendor and Apple will retain the second slot, said the report. Chinese company Xiaomi, which ranked fourth in 2020, will become the third-largest smartphone vendor in 2021. 
  • Global smartphone shipments dropped 11% year on year in 2020 to 1.25 billion units, Trendforce said. The number is expected to increase by 9% to 1.36 billion this year.

Context: Huawei was briefly ranked the world’s largest smartphone vendor in the second quarter of 2020, according to market research firm IDC. The company’s smartphone shipments then plunged 22% in the three months ended September to 51.9 million units, causing it to fall to second place on the top smartphone vendor list for the quarter.

  • Huawei has also lost access to popular Google services and apps including YouTube and Gmail because of a US trade ban in May 2019, making its handsets less appealing to overseas consumers.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...