Apple iPhone hits highest European market share during 'rollercoaster' year in 2021

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Apple's smartphone business grew 25% year-over-year in the European market in 2021 and hit its highest-ever market share in the region by December 2021.

The iPhone maker's smartphone market share eclipsed Samsung in Europe twice in the 2021 calendar year. Apple both started ended the year as the region's biggest smartphone maker, according to a new report from Counterpoint Research.

Apple's total market share throughout 2021 was 26%, up from 22% in 2020. Samsung's market share was slightly higher at 32% for 2021, though Apple ended the year with a total market share of 33% — its highest in Europe so far.

Credit: Counterpoint Research
Credit: Counterpoint Research

Market leadership changed hands several times in 2021, owing to a tumultuous year for the European smartphone market. The entire smartphone industry grew 8% year-over-year in the region. However, that growth only marks a recovery from a pandemic-driven drop in sales in 2020.

"It is great to see the European smartphone market growing in 2021, but that only tells half the story; COVID-19 impacts resulted in a 14% annual drop in sales in 2020, which means the market is still well-below pre-pandemic levels," said Jan Stryjak, Associate Director at Counterpoint.

Credit: Counterpoint Research
Credit: Counterpoint Research

Other smartphone markets, particularly Chinese brands, saw even greater levels of growth in 2021 than dominant brands like Samsung and Apple. Xiaomi, for example, saw 50% year-over-year growth. OPPO grew 94% year-over-year in 2021, while Realme grew 162%.

Not all Chinese brands saw that kind of growth. Huawei's shipments, for example, plunged 90% in 2021, leaving it with only a 1% market share.

Heading in 2022, Apple still leads the pack in terms of market share, and Counterpoint expects its upcoming iPhone SE refresh to give the company a mid-season boost later in the year.