Industry tracker: Huawei overtakes Samsung as top smartphone seller

The rear panel of a Huawei P40 phone is seen in sharp focus against a blurred background scene of customers trying out the phones

On second place, Samsung shipped 53.7 million devices, a whopping drop of 30% from Q2 2019. Its overseas shipments fell 27 per cent in Q2 but it dominated the domestic market and saw a boost of 8 per cent in Chinese shipments.

China's largest tech company shipped 55.8 million devices from April to June, down 5 percent from a year earlier.

Nevertheless, Huawei's position as number one seller may prove short-lived once other markets recover given it is mainly due to economic disruption, a senior Huawei employee with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

This strong showing at home in Q2 2020 has allowed Huawei to somewhat mitigate against USA restrictions that prevent it from selling phones with Google apps and services in overseas markets where its shipments have dropped 27%.

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.

Canalys notes that since Huawei is still subject to US government restrictions, its business outside of mainland China has shifted.

Sanctions aimed at crippling Huawei are part of a broader global battle between the U.S. and China over technology and trade. This is especially when you consider the fact that Huawei might have achieved this thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our business has demonstrated exceptional resilience in these hard times", Huawei has said in a statement.

Samsung said that as Covid-19 spread and caused closures and slowdowns at stores and production sites, the firm responded to these challenges through its "extensive global supply chain" to minimise the impact of the pandemic. And if Apple's 5G-enabled iPhone sells as well as the iPhone 11 lineup, Apple could become the market leader for 5G phones, according to Strategy Analytics.

That's an incredible achievement Samsung attributes primarily to its still-thriving memory business, as well as a one-off gain generated by the display panel division.