Xiaomi sold 27.9 million smartphones in the first quarter. Its smartphone sales volume ranks fourth globally. Handout.

India’s smartphone sales registered a marginal decline for the first time in many years for the calendar year 2020, hampered mainly by a sluggish first half, says a report by International Data Corporation.

The market ended 2020 with a shipment of 150 million units – a year-on-year decline of 1.7%, as per the corporation’s Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report. The stay-at-home mandates, closure of outlets, travel restrictions and manufacturing shutdowns led to a 26% fall in the first half from the same period last year.

However, the market rebounded in the second half, registering a 19% yearly growth as work from home and remote learning spurred the demand for more devices, including smartphones, notebooks and tablets, per household. In the October-December quarter, smartphone shipments soared to 45 million devices, up 21% from the same period last year.

Online sales

The report says that in 2020, the online channel outpaced the overall market as customers avoided store visits and grew 12% annually, with a 48% market share. In the October-December quarter, e-commerce notched a record 51% share through multiple sales events, promotions, upgrade programs and easy finance initiatives.

Xiaomi leads

Despite many anti-China campaigns in the wake of military clashes on the border and the ban on apps like TikTok, Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Vivo and Realme continued to dominate the country’s smartphone market. Xiaomi led with a 27% market share, followed by Samsung (17%), Vivo (17%), Realme (12%) and Oppo (11%).

Xiaomi’s Redmi 8 and 9 series dominated its sales in the first and second half, respectively, but the company had to contend with supply shortages, which resulted in a decline in annual sales.

Samsung retained its second spot on the back of strong online sales growth of 65%. But its offline channel shipments declined by 28%, which resulted in an overall drop of 4% in 2020.

Interestingly, Vivo registered a strong growth in the offline channel and garnered a 30% market share in the country’s smartphone retail sales, and dethroned the erstwhile market leader Samsung. Vivo’s affordable Y series and its push towards marketing and promotional activities helped boost offline sales.

Realme surpassed Oppo for the fourth slot with 19 million annual shipments and an annual growth of 19%. It continued to be the second-largest online vendor.

Apple nearly doubled its sales and moved to the seventh slot, with an yearly growth of 93%. Its sales were driven by iPhone 11, iPhone SE and iPhone XR, while the new iPhone 12 series did well in the fourth quarter.

Upgrades ahead

As for 2021, International Data Corporation forecasts the market to grow “in high single digits,” led by upgrades. It also sees a rebound in offline sales, which were badly hit during the lockdown in 2020.