While Xiaomi and Apple were flip-flopping between the second and third place this year, the one brand that remained on top in worldwide smartphone sales continues to be Samsung.
And as 2021 is nearing its end, it's time for us to take a look at exactly why Samsung is such a successful and beloved phone brand across the globe.
Here are six reasons why Samsung is still number one in 2021, and likely will remain in the lead next year...
Samsung releases consistently good premium phones
Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of our highest-rated smartphones of 2021, and for good reason. Not only does it feature the longest, best zoom and arguably the most versatile camera system on any phone, but it also packs a gorgeous, dynamic AMOLED display that goes up to 120Hz, plus some seriously solid battery life. In our Galaxy S21 Ultra review we did our usual battery tests and this phone lasted a whole 16 hours of web browsing at 60Hz!
It's also noteworthy that the S21 Ultra has S Pen stylus support, combining the best of both worlds from Samsung's Note series and the S series.
But we don't really need to aim as high at the S21 Ultra to experience Samsung greatness. The cheaper S21+ and S21 are also some of the top Android phones you can buy in 2021, especially if you value a feature-rich software experience and versatile cameras.
And the S21 series follow a line of killer Samsung flagships, like last year's Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series. Is it even a surprise that a huge number of Android users who are looking for a flagship Android experience go with Samsung?
Samsung continues to innovate and take risks
Here's what's most near and dear to my heart – innovation. Now, in order to innovate, a company has to take a financial risk, and in the world of smartphones – that's usually not a small one. But don't you worry, even though Apple is famous for being a gazillion-dollar company, Samsung isn't exactly scraping to get by either.
The South Korean giant is such a dominant manufacturing conglomerate, that even if it started losing money on smartphones, it would still stay afloat from its many other endeavours. From developing and selling parts like displays to third parties, to being a dominant figure in other consumer tech like TVs, Samsung is quite successful, and has been for decades.
But back to Samsung's smartphone innovation. This year Samsung released in my opinion the greatest phone ever made – the Galaxy Z Fold 3, along with the smaller and highly fashionable Galaxy Z Flip 3.
And Samsung didn't just manage to consistently refine those models year over year since 2019, to the point of near perfection for where technology is right now, but the company managed to single-handedly make foldable smartphones mainstream! And making a new form factor mainstream is a seemingly impossible feat for most phone brands.
You may have seen billboards around the world showcasing the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, and you can buy them pretty much anywhere too. We don't get such a mainstream reach while being stingy on money. Samsung has invested billions in research and development for its foldable phones before they were released in 2019, and even more afterwards, in order to heavily market them across the globe.
Respect for the financial risk Samsung took that paid off! It's a win not just for itself as a business, but for us as consumers, as we now have these exciting new options to choose from. And just in time too, as phone designs were starting to get a bit samey and stale.
Samsung offers the most versatile, feature-rich Android software experience
If it's not enough that Samsung offers some of the most unique, cutting-edge smartphones out there, like the aforementioned Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3, the company's flagships also deliver what is likely the most feature-rich Android experience one can get!
By buying a Samsung smartphone you're not just getting a smartphone, you're getting a pocket computer thanks to Samsung DeX – a feature that turns your smartphone's traditional Android interface into one that heavily resembles Windows – with a taskbar, apps that open in windows (proper multitasking!) and much more.
All you need is to do is connect your Galaxy flagship to a monitor and pick up an optional mouse and keyboard. If you don't have those – it's okay! Your phone will act as a touchpad while you're using Samsung DeX.
But hey, there's more to love when it comes to Samsung's software experience, especially if you're an artist, an Android power user or just a frequent note taker – and that's a suite of apps and gestures catered specially for the S Pen stylus.
If you pick up a Z Fold 3, Galaxy Note or the Galaxy S21 Ultra you get convenient dedicated gestures and apps for that stylus. Take a screenshot with a gesture, doodle something in it, take a quick note, send an animated hand-written message to a loved one – you have the tools to do so! It's never even close to a barebones experience when it's a Samsung flagship we're talking about.
And there's so much more we may take for granted that comes with One UI (Samsung's Android overlay), such as a built-in screen recorder, Samsung's own notes app, customization features and so on. You can't just buy any phone and get all that. Some phone brands might offer a few alternatives to those features, but that's just it – a few.
So indeed – a lot of people buy Samsung phones because a lot of people appreciate having extra features. Why not get more than you need if you can, right?
Samsung dominates emerging markets with its budget and ultra-budget phone models
Emerging markets such as India are like a golden mine for the phone manufacturers that have managed to act quick and take over with quality, affordable smartphones. And while Xiaomi is arguably the king of good-quality budget phones, and in fact is number one in India, Samsung is in its usual top three, in second place as of Q3 2021, according to Counterpoint Research.
But Samsung isn't just among the top three dogs in India, but in fact in most of the world when it comes to selling budget phones, and the sheer number of such phones getting sold annually make up for some superb revenue, even if the company earns much less by phone sold, as compared to selling a flagship.
The Galaxy A series are among the most popular budget phones out there, with the Korean giant's recent Galaxy A03s costing a mere $159, for example. And for this price it still packs a big 6.5-inch LCD screen and a beefy 5000 mAh battery, which are the most sought after phone features in emerging markets.
Of course, for anyone who can afford more, yet isn't interested in shiny flagship phones, there are the likes of the Galaxy A32, and even higher up the ladder we have the A52 and A72.
You can get lost in all of Samsung's budget options, and it's no surprise that with all of its affordable variants and its global reach, the Korean company dominates in mid-range and budget sales. Speaking of global reach, let's talk about that...
Unlike others, namely Google and Huawei, Samsung sells phones in virtually every region
This soon-to-be-over year Google released the Pixel 6 series, and those are some solid Android flagships. Both the base Pixel 6 and the Google Pixel 6 Pro got a solid score of 9/10 from us, and any Android fan will likely be happy to own either of them. But…
Google sells the Pixel 6 series in only nine countries, including the US and UK. That's far, far from the worldwide releases we see from the likes of Apple and Samsung.
And should we even get into Huawei? By now surely everyone is aware that this Chinese giant, along with ZTE, used to dominate in the smartphone world up until mid-2018, when it was not only restricted from selling phones in the US, but from selling phones with Google Services anywhere.
While the likes of those brands have to deal with restrictions and limited releases, Samsung has a huge worldwide market grasp, and its phones are sold literally everywhere where phones are sold. More power to ya, Samsung!
Samsung listens to its fans, even if their requests are niche, as opposed to mainstream and financially viable
Although the Note 20 Ultra didn't get a successor, the S Pen stylus lives on and is now supported by the Z Fold 3 and S21 Ultra
From a cold, calculating business perspective, Samsung didn't really have to go out of its way to design the foldable Z Fold 3 with S Pen stylus support, nor the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Despite small, Samsung's dedicated S Pen user base needed something new after the Note line got seemingly discontinued, and the company delivered!
If I was a cynical man I'd get off on a tangent about how Apple, for example, would never do something like that. Apple seems to be all about squeezing revenue from every nook and cranny and "bravely" dropping everything it can, from in-box earbuds and chargers to headphone jacks, especially if we're talking about things Apple can later sell you separately. If there's financial viability in something – Apple will do it. If not – it won't.
But here we have Samsung, which in 2021 managed to introduce stylus support to an already challenging to develop, new form factor, just for the fans.
So there we have it! As we're passing this year and about to enter 2022, here's hoping we continue to see innovation and surprises from Samsung!