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5G is the new normal for North American smartphones

by Ken Hyers | Mar 28, 2022

Well that was quick. Less than three years after the first 5G smartphones were introduced to North America, 5G smartphone vendor share has settled into a pattern that reflects the overall smartphone market.  Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, in Q4 2021 5G smartphones accounted for 75% of all smartphones shipped to the region, and for the full year 5G smartphones captured a two-thirds share in 2021.  That share is only going to continue going up.

Seasonality is in full-force, most apparent when looking at Apple and Samsung, with Samsung at its strongest in the first half of the year and Apple in the second half.  Some things don’t change.

NAM 5G Smartphone Penetration 2023 Q421 update

What is particularly interesting is that overlaying the total 5G smartphone share by vendor for North America onto the total smartphone share by vendor for the region shows pretty much the same growth patterns in recent quarters.  The reason this is interesting is that 5G was expected to be a disruptive force that would see some vendors exit the market and some new vendors enter.

In some ways, that happened – LG exited smartphones entirely in 2021, though that was due to other market dynamics (distribution, marketing, pricing, etc.) rather than 5G. And other vendors like OnePlus have capitalized on 5G to improve their share in the market (though in OnePlus’ case the gains are marginal and it remains in the low single-digits share-wise).

Some vendors have higher share in 5G than in the overall smartphone market.  Apple’s 5G smartphone share is over 10 percentage points higher than its total smartphone share in the North America market. This isn’t surprising since Apple’s entire smartphone portfolio is now 5G. Meanwhile Samsung’s 5G share currently indexes pretty closely to its overall smartphone marketshare in the market, but Samsung still offers 4G devices for the value-focused consumer base.  Interestingly, Motorola succeeded in pushing its Q4’21 5G share slightly higher than its overall smartphone share, reflecting the success of its One 5G, One 5G Ace and Moto G Stylus 5G smartphones in the quarter.

Strategy Analytics’ Devices team provides comprehensive coverage of the North American smartphone market.  Relevant reports include:


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