Xiaomi becomes the world's second-largest phone maker for the first time

It outgrew virtually everyone else, including Apple.

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Jon Fingas
July 16, 2021 10:18 AM
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2021/03/31: Pedestrians walk past the Xiaomi Mi 11 5G smartphone advertisement at its flagship store in Hong Kong. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Xiaomi is now a true heavyweight in the smartphone arena. Canalys estimates that the Chinese tech giant became the world's second-largest phone brand in the second quarter of 2021, surging 83 percent year-over-yer to claim 17 percent of the market. The company not only overtook Apple (14 percent) to claim the second spot, but blew past its BBK-owned Chinese rivals Oppo and Vivo, both of which held 10 percent. Samsung held on to its lead at 19 percent, but there's clearly not much of a gap.

The key, as you might guess, was price. Xiaomi's average selling prices are well below those of Samsung (40 percent) and Apple (75 percent), and even flagships like the Mi 11 are relatively affordable. That may have helped Xiaomi's strong international expansion, including a 300 percent jump in Latin America, a 150 percent spike in Africa and a 50 percent gain in Western Europe. And unlike its fallen competitor, Huawei, Xiaomi doesn't have a US blacklisting to cloud its future.

It's not certain that Xiaomi will hold on to its position. The second quarter is historically weak for Apple as it reaches the tail end of a given iPhone's release cycle. Canalys also notes that Oppo and Vivo aren't staying still — they have their own dreams of world dominance. And if Xiaomi hopes to escape its low-cost reputation, it needs phones like the Mi 11 Ultra and Mi Mix Fold to resonate with the public.

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Even a temporary second-place position would be notable, though. While Xiaomi has long had a major presence in its native China, the company has had a much tougher fight for international recognition. Now, it's large enough to battle with behemoths like Samsung and Apple — it's just a question of whether or not Xiaomi can become the frontrunner.

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