Huawei now world's biggest smartphone maker, despite U.S. ban

The Huawei P40 Pro has just had its price slashed

What's notable is that this is the first time that Huawei has managed to beat Samsung in shipping more phones - and all this despite the fact that the company is at the receiving end of a trade ban that has crippled its operations in major smartphone markets worldwide.

The period running from April to June this year marks the first quarter in nine years that a company other than South Korean giant Samsung or United States iPhone marker Apple has led the market.

Thus, Huawei could not use licensed Google Android on its latest flagship devices. Huawei is essentially showing that it doesn't need to rely on global markets - or access to the Play Store - to continue its smartphone momentum.

While this year has been anything but normal, we are getting a great insight into Huawei's smartphone strategy. "Its new iPhone SE was critical in the quarter", Canalys analyst Vincent Thielke said.

"Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to reignite its smartphone business".

Even as some countries and regions have begun to loosen pandemic restrictions, other countries are still dealing with the initial wave of the COVID-19 crisis, says market research firm Omdia. Since Q1 of 2019, the percentage of Huawei devices sold in mainland China has increased from 51% to 72%. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said sales actually grew 6% on a constant-currency basis, propelled by demand for Macs and iPads from millions now accustomed to working from home.

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It's obviously a unique set of circumstances and it will be hard for Huawei to maintain its lead in the long term as global markets start to bounce back.

The company's dominance in China "will not be enough to sustain Huawei at the top once the global economy starts to recover", said Canalys analyst Mo Jia.

China's Huawei Technologies snatched the title of biggest smartphone seller from Samsung Electronics, but both saw declines, of 5 percent and 30 percent, respectively. As a result, the Chinese company has a almost non-existent market share in the US.

Huawei is still subject to U.S. government restrictions, which have stifled its business outside of China. The display business is hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic since the lower consumer demand for smartphones translated into reduced shipments of small- and mid-sized panels.

Huawei's rise has brought extensive security concerns in recent months.

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