In the second quarter (March through June), Huawei shipped more smartphones worldwide than any other supplier — the first quarter in nine years that Samsung or Apple has not led the market — according to market research firm Canalys.

Huawei shipped 55.8 million devices, down 5 percent year on year, but slightly ahead of second-place Samsung, which shipped 53.7 million smartphones, a 30 percent drop compared to last year’s quarter.

“This is a remarkable result that few people would have predicted a year ago. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, it wouldn’t have happened,” said Canalys senior analyst Ben Stanton. “Huawei has taken full advantage of the Chinese economic recovery to reignite its smartphone business. Samsung has a very small presence in China, with less than 1 percent market share, and has seen its core markets, such as Brazil, India, the United States and Europe, ravaged by outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns.”

Canalys analyst Mo Jia said, “But it will be hard for Huawei to maintain its lead in the long-term. Its major channel partners in key regions, such as Europe, are increasingly wary of ranging 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.”

U.S. government restrictions stifled Huawei’s business outside of mainland China, where overseas shipments fell 27 percent in the second quarter. Responding by focusing on China, Huawei now sells over 70 percent of its smartphones in mainland China and dominates its domestic market, seeing Chinese shipments grow by 8 percent during Q2.

China has emerged strongest from the coronavirus pandemic, with factories reopened, economic development continuing and tight controls on new outbreaks.

“Taking first place is very important for Huawei,” said Jia. “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.”