The Chinese firm has taken "full advantage" of its homeland's economic recovery, according to analysts
Embattled Chinese firm Huawei shipped more smartphones worldwide than any other vendor in the second quarter of 2020.
It's the first time in nine years that a company other than Apple or Samsung has led the market and it is largely due to how the coronavirus has impacted regions at different times.
While China was first to feel the brunt of COVID-19, the country has emerged from the pandemic with factories reopened, economic development continuing and tight controls on new outbreaks.
Huawei shipped 55.8 million devices, according to research from Canalys, with 70% of its business in the Chinese mainland. In comparison, second-placed Samsung shipped 53.7 million smartphones, a 30% fall against its Q2 2019 results.
"This is a remarkable result that few people would have predicted a year ago," said Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton. "If it wasn't for COVID-19, it wouldn't have happened. Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to reignite its smartphone business. Samsung has a very small presence in China, with less than 1% market share, and has seen its core markets, such as Brazil, India, the United States and Europe, ravaged by outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns."
Huawei has released a succession of critically acclaimed smartphones over the last three years, such as the P30 Pro and the P40 Pro, but its business has suffered disruption due to the heavy sanctions levied by the US government, which has barred American companies, including Google, from supplying goods and services to the Chinese firm.
While the P40 is seen as a high-quality smartphone, the fact it doesn't have access to Google's app ecosystem has largely dominated its release. This also seems to have influenced markets outside of China, with Huawei's overseas shipments falling 27% for the second quarter of 2020.
"Taking first place is very important for Huawei," said Canalys analyst Mo Jia. "It is desperate to showcase its brand strength to domestic consumers, component suppliers and developers. It needs to convince them to invest and will broadcast the message of its success far and wide in the coming months.
"But it will be hard for Huawei to maintain its lead in the long term. Strength in China alone will not be enough to sustain Huawei at the top once the global economy starts to recover."