The company said this first-quarter drop to 295 million units was driven largely by a 27% year-on-year decline in shipments to China, with the country's overall share of the global market falling from 26% to 22%.
Shipments of 5G smartphones increased their share from 1% in the first quarter of 2019 to 8% in 1Q2020.
Chinese firms Xiaomi and realme achieved growth of 7% and 157% year-on-year, the only two companies to show positive figures. Apple remained largely unaffected, with shipments falling only 5% for the quarter.
Counterpoint associate director Tarun Pathak said: “From the consumer standpoint, unless replacing a broken phone, smartphones are mostly a discretionary purchase. Consumers, in these uncertain times, are likely to withhold making many significant discretionary purchases.
"This means the replacement cycles are likely to become longer. Lockdowns in most parts of the world will be lifted in a staggered way, which will mean it could take time before retail activity completely resumes.
"Even after the lockdown ends, there will likely be changes in consumer spending patterns. Online channels are likely to be preferred and there will likely be shifts in the price band distribution with some consumers opting for a cheaper device, which could lead to a decrease in overall average selling prices.
"OEMs will have to embrace a more omnichannel strategy. Retailers will also have to find ways to reach their consumers digitally. This could increase the adoption of O2O (online to offline) channels and hyper-local delivery services in smartphones.
"However, users staying at home are engaging on their smartphone more than ever. This provides opportunities for services like mobile gaming and OTT services. This will likely lead to operators being able to upsell to larger data packages with higher ARPUs.”
The pandemic has also affected the rollout of 5G in some countries. Counterpoint research analyst Varun Mishra said: “COVID-19 has disrupted the implementation plans of 5G in some countries, with auctions being postponed in markets like Spain and India.
"However, led by Huawei, the growth of 5G in China remains as expected. As the situation returns to normal, the 5G sales will be further driven by OEMs including Samsung, OPPO, vivo, Xiaomi and realme launching devices in the sub-US$300 price band.
"This is likely to be complemented by SoC players launching cheaper 5G-capable chipsets. The share of 5G smartphones increased to 8% in Q1 2020, compared to 1% in Q4 2019. 5G is likely to help the rate of recovery during the second half of 2020.”