PC MAG May 1, 2020

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 has made 5G a significant force in US phones, but that’s in the context of an overall sales crash during the COVID crisis.

By Sascha Segan

About one in five phones sold in the US in mid-April can run on 5G networks, a huge percentage jump up because of the Samsung Galaxy S20 series launch, according to data provider M Science.

M Science creates actionable intelligence, based on alternative data, for corporations and investors to use in business decision-making. The S20 sales vaulted the US’ 5G sales percentage ahead of China’s, even though M Science tracked only 10 different 5G models being sold in the US as compared to 29 in China. We’ve previously reported that the US market is dominated by Samsung and Apple, based on sales data.

All three major carriers in the US now have 5G networks, although they use different frequencies and their capabilities can be quite confusing. While the first 5G phones came out last year, Samsung’s Galaxy S20+, released early this March, was the first phone to support all of the different US carriers’ 5G networks.

But it isn’t all good news in 5G world. One of the reasons the 5G sales percentage is up is because 4G sales are so far down. “4G volumes have come down because of all the store closures, so you’re not seeing that normalized 4G base right now, which has kept the 5G rate above 20 percent,” said Mark Bachman, senior analyst at M Science.

Starting March 7, the COVID crisis led “4G and below” phone sales in the US to drop from around 700,000 per week to roughly half as much, just as 5G phone sales had a boomlet from the S20 launch, according to M Science numbers. 

S20 series sales are tracking much lower than S10 or S9 sales were at the same number of weeks after launch, M Science says. While the S9 peaked at over 500,000 units sold per week in the US and the S10 peaked at 400,000, the S20 hasn’t broken 200,000 in any week.

Bachman attributes a mysterious uptick in sales last week for both 4G and 5G phones to the arrival of stimulus checks, which may have caused people to pull the trigger on buying a new phone.

“We don’t have robust 5G networks here in the US,” Bachman said. “So when you launch a 5G phone which is very expensive, and you don’t get the 5G benefits, I don’t think we’ve seen the full effect of those loyal Samsung users switching from the S9 or S10 up to the S20 as of yet.”

About M Science

M Science is a data-driven research and analytics firm, uncovering new insights for leading financial institutions and corporations. M Science is revolutionizing research, discovering new data sets and pioneering methodologies to provide actionable intelligence. Our research teams have decades of experience working with unstructured data in near real-time to discern critical insights that help clients make smarter, more informed decisions. We combine the best of finance, data and technology to create a truly unique value proposition for both financial services firms and major corporations in a variety of industries.

M Science is a portfolio company of Leucadia Investments, a division of Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (NYSE: JEF) with offices in New York, London, Hong Kong and Portland, Oregon. For more information, please visit www.mscience.com.

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