SHANGHAI, CHINA - JUNE 01: The research and develo
The research and development centre of Transsion Holdings, the parent company of Techno Mobile, in Shanghai. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
  • Tecno Mobile, owned by China's Transsion, says it has toppled Samsung as the top-selling smartphone in Africa, based on third-party research.
  • Including Transsion's other brands, Itel and Infinix, nearly half of all smartphones sold on the continent are now made by it, says the company.
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China's Tecno Mobile has claimed the title of Africa's largest smartphone brand, saying third-party data shows it unseated Korean heavyweight Samsung in unit sale terms in 2020.

Though it sells more affordable models too, Samsung is best known for its high-end flagship smartphones. In contrast, Tecno – which remains largely unknown in South Africa outside of fans of the Manchester City football club it sponsors – has a heavy focus on cheaper phones, 

A new report from Counterpoint Research, covering all of last year, backs up quarterly reports by market research firm IDC, Tecno said, putting it well in the lead. Across the continent an estimated 18% of shipped smartphones were made by Tecno Mobile, and 15% by Samsung. Competitor Chinese brand Huawei came in fourth, at 8% – after Tecno's sister brand Itel, at 12%.

Tecno and Itel are both owned by Transsion Holdings. Add in the numbers for a third brand in the stable, Infinix, and the holding company sold nearly half of all new smartphones on the continent in 2020. 

Samsung has warned that serious supply issues in the microchip sector could hit flagship phone availability this year.

Overall smartphone sales were somewhat slower in 2020 than they had been the previous year. It is not yet clear to what extent demand will recover in 2021, or whether buyers will choose more expensive phones.

In richer countries, demand for 5G-capable phones are expected to drive average handset prices up, but the same will likely not be true across Africa.

The extremely competitive smartphone market recently saw an exit from LG, once a top-five brand, while other household names such as Motorola continue to struggle with demand, even for critically acclaimed handsets. 

The article has been updated to correct the spelling of Tecno.

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