iPhone 12 vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Which smartphone was the best seller in 2020?

iphone 12 vs. samsung galaxy s20 FE
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple vs. Samsung smartphone wars are almost as vicious as PlayStation vs. Xbox fan battles. iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy devotees will die on a hill claiming their device is better than the competition. One's stance on which brand is the best smartphone maker is subjective, but the numbers don't lie when it comes to 2020's best-selling flagship handset.

For the first time in four years, Apple has crushed Samsung in smartphone sales during the last quarter of 2020 thanks to two devices: the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro (via Business Insider). However, when we look at whole-year sales, the numbers tell a different story.

Apple vs. Samsung: Which sold the most phones in 2020?

Overall, last year wasn't a stellar time for the smartphone market. The pandemic likely took a toll on consumers' pockets as smartphone sales fell 12.5% year-over-year in 2020. Despite the slight slump in smartphone sales, Apple must be feeling like it's on top of the world.

For the first time since 2016, the Cupertino-based tech giant outperformed Samsung in smartphone sales in Q4 of 2020, snatching the greatest share in the market at 20.8%. Samsung's market share was about four percentage points less at 16.2%. 

While Apple outpaced Samsung during the fourth quarter of last year, Samsung maintained its position as the top smartphone seller in terms of whole-year sales. Samsung's performance was reportedly led by the Galaxy S20 Fan Edition and the entry-level Galaxy S20, according to Yonhap News.

When Apple launched its iPhone 12 line in October, however, Samsung fell to second place in quarterly sales, thanks to the popularity of its iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro devices. Apple achieved record revenue of $65.6 billion in iPhone sales after the release of its current-gen models. The iPhone 12 Pro continued to kill it in sales in early 2021 (the iPhone 12 mini, unfortunately, isn't doing so hot).

After Apple and Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei made up the rest of the top five for Q4 2020, respectively. 

Interestingly, Huawei was the top smartphone seller during Q2 2020 but has since slipped in sales due to trade restrictions. Overall, Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei all increased their market shares in 2020.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!