This is the state of the smartphone market in 2021

The smartphone industry has come a long way in the last two decades. From the ever-changing Samsung Galaxy phones, to the ‘innovating’ iPhone, to foldable phones, the smartphone market has had its ups and downs when it comes to stability.

Also, the smartphone market in 2021 is going to be quite confusing. There are billions of smartphone models in the market, but many are not good enough. The quality to price ratio has come down in the last few years. Similarly, we will discuss the changes in the trend of smartphones.

rise of smartphone

Since the 1990s, there has been a steady evolution in smartphone technology trends globally. We’ve come a long way from phones that were practically electronic bricks; Foldable smartphones are a reality. Foldable technology is getting better every year and soon all the brands will introduce foldable smartphones. Moreover, owning a smartphone is now a necessity rather than a luxury.

Almost every business needs communication, and what better tool than that? A list of phone use cases could fill many pages, but I’m not here to do that. In my opinion, everyone needs a smartphone, no matter what it does. Be it education, work or leisure, no one can thrive without it.

golden era for smartphone


In the pre-pandemic era, i.e. a few years before 2020, the smartphone market was at its peak. OEMs used to launch phones that offered true value for money. Likewise, the phone’s prices weren’t absurd, and unlike now, the brands didn’t face much adverse criticism.

Brands like OnePlus and Motorola were off to a great start with their initial phone launches; They went to the top and eventually fell. Motorola’s Moto G and Moto X lineups were some of the best phone series in the budget and mid-range segment. However, Motorola’s fortunes were ruined when Lenovo acquired the company. Since then, the Moto name has faded.

Coming to OnePlus, the BBK-owned company made a relatively late entry into the market but failed to shake it up. The OnePlus One, the smartphone before it, offered something unreal. Excellent build quality, reliable hardware and stock Android experience. Not many brands provide everything in one package.

OnePlus was off to a great start, and everyone knew it. After that, the company continued to release flagship phones every year. However, OnePlus has changed; Its phones were great until the OnePlus 7 series but have been running into problems recently.

Several factors such as inflation, pandemic and manufacturing halt have led to its current state. Above all, the current OnePlus phones don’t offer enough value for money.

What kind of smartphones are we getting in 2021?

variety of phones

The current situation in the mobile phone market is at a crossroads. In light of recent events including the pandemic, and global semiconductor chip shortages, the smartphone market is saturated in 2021.

Brands like Xiaomi and Realme entered the smartphone market sometime back and successfully ruled the budget and mid-range segment. These brands have flooded the market with phones, and they refresh it almost every month.

Most of the OEMs are focusing on building an ecosystem by launching other smart devices including accessories, earphones, smartwatches and brand-exclusive services. All the major brands have their own line of smart devices to achieve ecosystem like status. However, only a few names are succeeding.

no room left for innovation

The current scenario is different as compared to how we will get a new and innovative facility once in a year or two. Instead of looking for customers, many brands focus on doing (or sometimes directly copying) something that others are doing.

For example, a major OEM releases a feature that may prove valid; Within a short span of time, another OEM offers the same feature in another smartphone and drops it and calls it the improved version.

To clarify, brands are busy pulling away features and designs from the competition, rather than considering anything else, unlike a few years ago.

5G gimmick

5G was introduced to the phone in late 2020 as a “unique selling proposition” (USP). Since then, most brands have released new phones or refreshes of existing phones with 5G technology highlighted in its list of features as the “USP”.

Sure, 5G is a new technology that brings faster internet and requires some spotlight. However, most used the name 5G to attract customers, while not even fully delivering the technology. Many 5G-capable smartphones in some countries have only a limited number of 5G bands, instead of having all the available bands. techradar Explained why this happened in India.

playing money games

Taking the smartphone industry aside, the world has seen many companies that started for a good cause and later become money-focused businesses. The same happened in the phone market as well. Some reputed brands like OnePlus started with a phone that offered significant value for money.

Going forward, the brand continued to offer great smartphones till the OnePlus 7 series. For unforeseen reasons, phones from OnePlus became much more expensive than before, providing the same level of competition.

Also, OnePlus is trying to match the top flagships like Samsung and Apple. Its smartphones are crossing the $800 mark but the company has realized it. Hence, it is now taking on the mid-range segment again with the new Nord series.

A hit on the smartphone market

global pandemic

While everyone knows how much the Covid-19 pandemic affected all industries, the quantum of damage is still to be processed. The pandemic coupled with chip shortage has adversely affected the smartphone industry.

The low availability of semiconductor chips led to an increase in their prices. In addition, the demand for many electronic devices, especially phones, has increased significantly as the lockdown has introduced online education and work.

The reasons mentioned above have contributed to the huge increase in the prices of mobile phones. Consistently, inflation led to a change in the budget landscape in many markets.

Flagships that used to be just above some mid-range phones now have a huge price difference. Hence, many users are now forced to pay a premium to buy a flagship smartphone. He is not everything; We may have to pay more for smartphones in 2022 as the crisis is not ending soon.

Smartphone market growth Q2 2021
Smartphone market growth in Q2 2021. Source: IDC

According to IDC, despite all the challenges, the global smartphone market grew by 13.2% in the second quarter of 2021. While users avoided buying new smartphones in the early stages of the pandemic, the fear subsided in 2021.

So, brands with enough capital kept going and supplying, and those that couldn’t hold up collapsed. Older players like Sony, HTC and ASUS have moved down several leagues over the years. However, the pandemic is not solely responsible for the collapse of these companies; They were already struggling against the competition. Similarly, the present scenario is a realistic representation of the survival of the fittest.

According to Canalys’ third quarter report, Xiaomi has topped the Indian smartphone market in the third quarter of 2021. “In the third quarter of 2021, global smartphone shipments declined by 6 per cent as vendors struggled to meet demand for devices amid component shortages,” the report said. said.

    Smartphone market share position q3 2021
Smartphone market share, Q3 2021.

“The chipset famine has really arrived.”

Ben Stanton, Canalys’ Principal Analyst.

That said, Q4 2021 is not going to be any different from the past year or so. Chip shortages have had a significant impact on the entire market, and we’re here to see it in full rage.

phone market flood

market flood

With the changing landscape of brand dominance, OEMs are leveraging their authority to flood the market. Prominent examples of brands doing this are Xiaomi and all the brands owned by BBK. Every smartphone model in any price segment has at least three variants. You can find the Pros, Max and Pro Max in figuratively any model.

But what good is this? Well, they’re making sure they have a tool for every customer with any budget, even if it varies from $50.

Personally, I was looking to replace my three year old OnePlus 5T with something equivalent to the current generation. I failed It took me 6 months to finally switch to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (which is a great phone, but I’m a stock Android fan) which cost the same price as my previous device.

Despite the market flooding, it is not easy to settle for a new smartphone unless you are willing to compromise. The “real flagships” have raised prices due to inflation. Gone are the days when you could spend $600 and get a decent device.

Innovation and the next generation of smartphones

Foldable and Innovation

We have come a long way since the advent of smartphones. From phones with mediocre specifications that cost as much as today’s flagships, budget and mid-rangers claim to be flagship killers.

Ever since the advent of Xiaomi and other BBK-owned brands such as realme and OnePlus, the market has been properly divided into three segments – budget, mid-range and flagships. Samsung made serious strides with its Note series which featured the unique S-Pen. The development process stagnated after all the brands started copying each other.

Coming to power, Qualcomm had a monopoly as most phone brands relied on their Snapdragon SoCs. As the smartphone market evolved, Qualcomm got on the train. There is a range of Snapdragon processors for every phone in any segment. However, brands such as Samsung and Apple continued to use their own chips for their flagships.

In my opinion, Samsung has come a long way in terms of power, software and reliability. If I look back 10 years, Samsung was all over the place with its TouchWiz and Samsung Experience software. They were yet another skinned Android OS, but had major issues in many departments. With One UI, the company is moving in the right direction.

Now, in 2021, more and more brands are choosing not to rely on Qualcomm for their chips. Similarly, Google took the bold step by creating its own custom Tensor chip for the Pixel 6 series. I think this is once again a step in the right direction.

Tensor isn’t about toppling Qualcomm’s SoCs in terms of raw power, but letting Google do what they do best in their smartphones without any limitations. Google’s AI-powered camera processing game is unmatched – using external Snapdragon SoCs has limited the company from fully improving camera processing. If more brands focus on what they do best, there is enough room for innovation for everyone.

Coming to the fancy part, more brands are focusing on foldable, rollable and flippable screens. Foldable smartphones (yes, where the display tilts) are now a reality, and the technology is evolving rapidly.

Prominent examples of this are Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip3 and Fold3, Moto’s half-hearted attempt with the Moto Razr, and more. Now is the time to see new technologies being implemented in phones, and the race is on. I mean, who thought you could use your phone’s camera to zoom in 100x to see the moon? The near future looks exciting.


In short, we’ve come a long way from the early smartphone era. A lot of brands are competing with each other, and are getting better day by day. The smartphone market was hit hard by the pandemic, but the world is really recovering from it.

Plus, some brands are trying to omit features, but the competition is healthy, isn’t it? However, it is not looking good for the users. Users with limited knowledge of smartphone trends can easily get confused by the plethora of options when buying a phone and end up not buying the “best”.

The war between operating systems remains to be seen another era, but is no longer about fanbases fighting each other. The technology used in all of our phones is evolving, and I can’t wait to see it.

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