In a sluggish market, Huawei accelerated to get ahead of the eternal top of the class. In the midst of the coronavirus health crisis, the Chinese manufacturer dethroned for the first time the South Korean Samsung, thus becoming the world’s leading seller of smartphones, according to data compiled by the research office Canalys.

In fact, Huawei limited the damage better than it actually made progress in the second quarter. Between April and June, the Chinese group sold 55.8 million phones (-5% over one year) against 53.7 million for Samsung (-30%).

A good performance despite a tense context outside of China.

The American embargo hurts

On the United States’ blacklist for espionage charges, the group founded by Ren Zhengfei recently lost the possibility of obtaining chips from the Taiwanese specialist TSMC.

Also deprived by the Trump administration of Google’s Android operating system, Huawei is forced to accelerate the development of its own system, HarmonyOS, unveiled last year.

Sales of the latest high-end smartphones like Mate 30 Pro or the P40 Pro have therefore been penalized by the absence for Western consumers of applications such as Gmail, YouTube or Google Maps.

In France, Huawei, 3rd seller behind Samsung and Apple, suffered from this economic situation in 2019 when its spectacular growth came to a halt. But the giant from Shenzhen (southern China) has simultaneously optimized the latest Android licenses it had in stock by increasing the releases of more affordable models such as the Nova 5T or a reissue of its excellent P30 Pro. Big volume sales that gave him some oxygen.

Chinese sales weigh for the moment

National champion in China (70% of sales) where Samsung weighs nothing, Huawei has also mostly cushioned the shock of Covid-19 at home.

“Huawei took full advantage of the economic recovery in China to relaunch its activity in the field of smartphones, while the main markets of its competitor Samsung (Brazil, India, United States and Europe) remain strongly affected by the pandemic”, estimates Ben Stanton, Canalys analyst.

Huawei praised an “exceptional resilience in these difficult times”. But the thinning should only be weak, as Samsung has already announced that its sales are expected to rebound strongly in the second half of the year in the wake of the launch of its expected Note 20 and other mid-range models.

Another problem on the horizon for Huawei is the rise of other Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi or OPPO, which are eating away at its market share in Europe.