Chinese OEMs' efforts to churn out 5G-capable smartphones in budget segments seem to have paid off. According to Counterpoint Research, 5G smartphones have inched past 4G models for the first time as of January 2022, dominated by China.
Counterpoint's latest global monthly smartphone sales tracker report found that 5G-enabled handsets accounted for 51% of global sales in the month of January. This is mainly due to increased 5G adoption by Chinese brands, aided in no small way by Chinese telecom operators' 5G push.
In 2019, Samsung kicked off the 5G race by releasing a 5G version of the Galaxy S10 to consumers. Many of the best Android phones have since followed suit, primarily from Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi, OnePlus, and OPPO.
There was no shortage of 5G-enabled smartphones from Chinese OEMs in 2021. For example, the Oppo Reno 5 Pro 5G debuted early last year to compete with Samsung's best 5G phones.
Naturally, China had the highest 5G phone sales penetration rate in the world, at 84%.
"China, North America and Western Europe were the biggest drivers of this growth," Karn Chauhan, an analyst at Counterpoint, wrote in a blog post.
North America and Western Europe had 73% and 76% market penetration, respectively. Apple dominated these markets with a sales share of more than 50% and 30%, respectively.
Meanwhile, Counterpoint pinned the sales growth of 5G-capable Android handsets on the proliferation of affordable chipsets from Qualcomm and MediaTek. For instance, the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is powered by MediaTek's Dimensity 900 chipset.
"Thanks to the affordable chips offered by MediaTek and Qualcomm, Android 5G smartphones entered the mid-to-high ($250-$400) price segment and are now trickling down to the $150-$250 price range, contributing one-fifth of the 5G sales in January," Chauhan added.
Smartphone manufacturers are expected to bolster their 5G initiatives in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Latin America.
"5G models in the sub-$150 price segment are the sweet spot for these regions, which are currently dominated by 4G," Chauhan wrote.
With companies like Xiaomi and OPPO recently unveiling their latest 5G devices, it looks like we'll continue to see 5G eclipsing 4G smartphone sales down the road.