The iPhone XR Is Still the Most Popular Smartphone on the Planet

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We’ve already heard numerous reports that the iPhone XR has been selling staggeringly well ever since it was first released, but now new analytical data has confirmed that it was the single most popular smartphone in the world last year—and by a pretty sizeable margin too.

A new report from Omdia, shared by 9to5Mac, pegs the iPhone XR as not only taking first place by outselling every other smartphone made, but that it actually beat out the second-place contender, Apple’s own iPhone 11, by about 9 million units.

You may not have heard the name Omdia before, but it’s not technically a new player in the market research game; it came out of the merger of the research arms of two more established analysts, Informa Tech and IHS Markit, so it has some experiencing in putting numbers like these together.

To be clear, these numbers are still estimates, since Apple only releases total revenue for all iPhones sold, and doesn’t even offer total unit sales, much less a breakdown by model of iPhone. However, researchers are able to make pretty reasonable and educated guesses by putting Apple’s own dollar figures together with supply chain sources and sales through carriers and retailers.

The Top Five

According to Omdia, while Apple dominated both first and second place, the remainder of the top five positions went to Samsung’s Galaxy A10, Galaxy A150, and Galaxy A20, all of which also represent the more wallet-friendly models in Samsung’s own portfolio. The iPhone 11 Pro Max came in at sixth place, edging out the seventh-place contender, the iPhone 8, by only about a quarter of a million units. The iPhone 11 Pro came in at the ninth position, behind Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 7—the only device on the list from a company other than Apple or Samsung.

While the numbers clearly show that demand has swung sharply toward lower-cost smartphones, it’s also interesting to note that the iPhone accounted for 56% of the top ten most-sold smartphone models last year, with 134.1 million iPhones sold out of the 239.4 million total. Of this, the iPhone XR and iPhone 11 alone made up 35% of the smartphones sold on that list (83.6 million units). The iPhone XR has a 9 million unit lead over the iPhone 11, which in turn had a 7 million unit lead over Samsung’s Galaxy A10.

What’s also interesting is that overall iPhone shipments were down by 4.6% in 2019 compared to the numbers in 2018, which Omdia attributes to price increases, and yet Apple’s sales still dominated those of its competitors, which is a good reminder that reports of lagging iPhone sales always need to be viewed in the context of the overall smartphone market, where Apple is actually gaining ground over its rivals.

What It All Means

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the iPhone XR was on sale throughout all of 2019, while the iPhone 11 was only available from September onward. This suggests that the iPhone 11 is likely even more popular; we already noted earlier this year that it dominated Christmas smartphone activations, albeit only by a slight margin over the iPhone XR at that point, which means that almost as many people still found the older 2018 model under the tree.

The numbers for the iPhone 8 also bode well for the impending release of the iPhone 9, since it demonstrates that there’s a market for less expensive iPhone models that still use the more traditional design. If an iPhone model released in 2017 can still take seventh place, the new A13-equipped iPhone 9—which is also predicted to retail for $50 less—should fly off the shelves.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about how well the iPhone XR has been doing for Apple, and it clearly validates the company’s decision to divide its lineup into two tiers, which has only been further cemented by last year’s new “standard vs. Pro” naming convention. The iPhone XR was taking 32 percent of new iPhone sales within weeks after its release, selling more units that the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max combined, and by last spring it was already dominating North American smartphone sales.

However, it looks like the iPhone 11 is rapidly catching up. A report by Counterpoint Research last year put it behind Samsung in the number five spot, but it’s clearly now broken out way ahead of its rivals to become the number two player by a huge margin, and there’s every indication that it will have risen to first place within the next few months, especially as we begin to see even more carrier discounts and subsidies leading up to the release of this year’s iPhone 12 lineup.

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