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Huawei overcame sanctions to surpass Apple in 2019 global smartphone sales

Huawei, amid sanctions imposed by the U.S. government, surpassed Apple to take second place in global smartphone sales in 2019 — but not enough to dethrone Samsung.

The sanctions against Huawei started in mid-2019 when it was placed on the Entity List of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This prohibited the Chinese smartphone manufacturer from acquiring parts and components from U.S. companies without the approval of the federal government.

Due to the sanctions, Huawei was also forced to abandon certain aspects of Google’s Android mobile operating system, including the Google Play Store and G Suite integration.

However, according to Counterpoint Research, Huawei was still able to overtake Apple in terms of global smartphone sales last year, despite the challenges that it faced. The company was able to take almost 40% market share in its home market of China, which accounted for more than 60% of its shipments.

Huawei shipped 238.5 million units in 2019, improving 16% from 205.3 million units in 2018. In comparison, Samsung, still the leader with shipments of 296.5 million units, saw a 2% increase in shipments from 291.8 million units. Meanwhile, Apple, down to third place, shipped 196.2 million units last year, down 5% from 206.3 million units in 2018.

Counterpoint Research noted that Apple was able to take the top spot in global smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2019, for the first time in two years. This was due to the popularity of the iPhone 11, which exceeded expectations.

Canalys, which also placed Huawei in second place ahead of Apple in 2019 global smartphone sales, said that last year could have seen Huawei attempt to challenge Samsung for the top spot in the industry. With the sanctions in place, that wasn’t possible, and it remains to be seen if and when the company will be able to gather momentum for another run at the crown.

Digital Trends’ Greg Nibler recently sat down with Tim Danks, Huawei’s vice president of risk management and partner relations, who said recent suggestions that the company will abandon Google’s Android were false. According to Danks, if the restrictions are lifted, Huawei plans to continue forward with Android.

However, Danks confirmed that if Huawei is forced to drop Android, the company has a Plan B. Huawei is investigating alternative options, including using its own Harmony OS or continuing with the open-source Android in its current smartphones without heavy Google integration.

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