The technology analyst firm Canalys said in a blog post that this was the first time in nine years that any company apart from either Samsung or Apple had been the one with the most shipments.
In the quarter, Huawei shipped 55.8 million devices, a drop of 5% year-on-year, ahead of Samsung which shipped 53.7 smartphones, a fall of 30% year-on-year.
Due to the US restrictions on its business, Huawei's overseas shipments fell by 27% year-on-year, Canalys said, adding that its domestic shipments grew by 8% over the corresponding quarter in 2019 to enable it to command more than 70% of the smartphone sales in China, the biggest global market for the devices.
“This is a remarkable result that few people would have predicted a year ago,” said Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton. “If it wasn’t for COVID-19, it wouldn’t have happened.
"Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to re-ignite its smartphone business. Samsung has a very small presence in China, with less than 1% market share, and has seen its core markets, such as Brazil, India, the US and Europe, ravaged by outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns.”
Canalys analyst Mo Jia added: “Taking first place is very important for Huawei. It is desperate to showcase its brand strength to domestic consumers, component suppliers and developers. It needs to convince them to invest, and will broadcast the message of its success far and wide in the coming months.
"But it will be hard for the company to maintain its lead in the long term. Its major channel partners in key regions, such as Europe, are increasingly wary of Huawei devices, taking on fewer models, and bringing in new brands to reduce risk. Strength in China alone will not be enough to sustain Huawei at the top once the global economy starts to recover.”