2020 has surfaced the importance that technology plays in society. Since the beginning of the pandemic, digital technology has enabled people to work remotely, attend classes, play social games, shop, leverage virtual assistants, and more. All told, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation by several years and will endure long after the pandemic is over.
Will 5G Meet Expectations?
As consumers expect better digital experiences, 5G wireless opens up new possibilities. With ultrafast speeds, seamless connectivity and negligible latency, 5G can improve multiplayer cloud gaming, shopping with augmented reality, real-time video collaboration, and so much more. 5G will accelerate app development around areas such as cloud computing, AR/VR, IoT, and artificial intelligence.
Despite this potential, 5G adoption requires the build-out of infrastructure and compatible devices. But 2020 saw the world’s two largest smartphone manufacturers, Samsung and Apple, release several 5G-enabled devices. In this report, we’ll review 5G smartphone adoption trends as well as the OEMs that are helping bring the technology to consumers.
5G-Enabled Device Adoption Explodes
Flurry Analytics is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing insights from 2 billion mobile devices per month. Let’s start by looking at the number of new 5G-enabled smartphones entering the market each month in the past two years.
In the chart above, we show the number of new smartphone activations per month starting from December 2018 when the first commercial 5G network services in the world launched in South Korea. All the spikes in device activations, seen as bumps on the chart, correspond to the release of a new 5G-enabled device. The first time a significant number of 5G-enabled smartphones entered the market was when Samsung released their Galaxy S10 5G phones in April 2019, followed by more 5G-enabled flagship smartphones in August 2019, March 2020, and August 2020. Apple joined the 5G bandwagon notoriously late in October 2020 with its iPhone 12 series, and since then the number of 5G-enabled smartphones in consumers’ hands has skyrocketed.
While the percentage of smartphones in the market is still relatively small at 1.7% as of November 2020, the number of monthly activations have increased by 1671% from last year. We expect the adoption rate to continue its sharp increase in the coming weeks as people purchase the latest and greatest smartphones during the holiday season. If the above trend is any indication, 2021 will likely be a banner year for 5G as expected improvements in infrastructure and broader penetration of 5G-enabled devices will meet the critical mass needed for app developers to design next-generation user experiences.
Apple Poised to Overtake Samsung as The Top 5G OEM Next Year
Let’s next look at the market share of 5G-enabled smartphones by OEM, and how it is changing over time.
In the chart above, we look at the current market share as well as the share of new device activations as of December 2020. This includes all countries in the world except Europe and China, due to GDPR compliance and lack of Android data respectively. Samsung constitutes 61% of all 5G-enabled devices in the market today, whereas Apple’s share is just 30%, followed by a distant LG at 4%. Samsung was amongst the first OEMs to release 5G-enabled devices in early 2019, which provided it a solid head start. However, Apple is taking a majority share of new activations (63%) thanks to the recent release of its iPhone 12 series, and appears to be on track to overtake Samsung to become the top 5G OEM in the world in the year ahead.
Network Coverage Matters
According to a report from the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), China has a two-year lead over the U.S. in terms of 5G infrastructure deployment. Since 5G technology has been available to the public for a longer time in China compared to the U.S., we looked at iPhone 12 adoption in both countries during the launch week of Apple’s first ever 5G-enabled device.
In the chart above, the bars represent the number of new devices activated during their respective launch week. The gray bars represent sales in the U.S. and the blue bars represent sales in China. Historically, iPhone sales in China have lagged behind those in the U.S. during the launch week for iPhone XR and iPhone 11. However, iPhone 12 sales in China exceeded those in the U.S., and we believe this is due to 5G technology being more top of mind for Chinese consumers given the more mature 5G ecosystem in the country.
As we head into 2021, we are excited by the possibilities of 5G technology, and what that means for the mobile ecosystem. Follow us on the Flurry Blog, Twitter and LinkedIn to find out about interesting trends in the mobile space.
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