SEOUL, March 4 (UPI) -- Despite a ban from the United States, Chinese smartphone powerhouse Huawei recorded 18.6 percent growth in its global sales last year. That means Huawei took on the second-highest ranking ahead of perennial runner-up, Apple, global research firm Gartner reported Wednesday.
Samsung Electronics maintained its leading position, even though the Seoul-based tech giant's 2019 sales rose a mere 0.4 percent compared to last year.
Gartner said Samsung sold 296.2 million smartphones last year, compared to Huawei's 240.6 million. Apple saw its sales dip 7.45 percent to 193.5 million, sliding into third place.
Xiaomi and OPPO followed Apple with annual sales of 126 million and 118.7 million, respectively.
The worldwide smartphone market shrunk 1 percent last year, to 1.54 billion.
Gartner believes Samsung and Huawei will continue to compete for the top ranking in global sales. In particular, Samsung is trying to take advantage of its technological edge by introducing foldable smartphones.
"The fierce battle between Samsung and Huawei in the foldable phone market will be interesting to follow this year, as each vendor takes a different approach," said Anshul Gupta, a senior research analyst at Gartner.
"Samsung has switched from a horizontal to a vertical fold in the Galaxy Z Flip and reduced this phone's size and price," Gupta added. "Huawei has launched the Mate X -- with Huawei Mobile Services now accessible via the Huawei AppGallery worldwide -- and increased its price."
If Huawei continues to be banned from accessing technology from the United States in 2020, Gartner expects Huawei's smartphone sales to be severely impacted.
A new challenge is also presented by the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, which was detected in China last December and has since spread to other neighboring Asian countries, with a large cluster of cases in South Korea.
"Looking forward, while the COVID-19 outbreak will impact smartphone demand negatively in China in the first quarter of 2020, we do not expect a demand contraction in the international smartphone market during that period," said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner.