In the autumn of 2020, Apple announced its first 5G-capable iPhone handsets - the 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max - and promptly took the lead in the 5G market. The company shouldn't rest on its laurels, however, because the competition is catching up.

That's according to the market research company Strategy Analytics, which has examined the sales figures for 5G smartphones over the past few quarters.

Apple dominates - then stagnates

According to current estimates, Apple sold more than 40 million 5G-enabled iPhones in the first quarter of 2021, almost a third of all 5G smartphones sold during this period. An impressive number, but the trend points downwards: in the previous quarter (presumably benefiting from the Christmas sales rush), Apple sold 23% more devices.

And while Apple is having to cope with falling sales, companies such as Samsung, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi have been able to increase their sales significantly. Samsung stands out in particular, with the South Korean firm selling 17 million devices in the first quarter of 2021. That's a 79% increase on the previous quarter.

If you look at the absolute sales figures, Oppo is Apple's biggest competitor. The Chinese manufacturer sold 21.5 million devices in Q1, an increase of 55% on the quarter before. In terms of pure sales figures, Apple is clearly the leader, but cannot keep up with the strong growth rates of the competition.

5G is only getting started

The market research company is certain that the 5G market, which is tied to the expansion of the corresponding infrastructure, is only just beginning to develop. Strategy Analytics predicts a total of 624 million devices will be sold in 2021, compared to 269 million last year.

If Apple is to make the most of this burgeoning market it needs to keep ahead of the competition - and give people a good reason to buy the (5G-capable) iPhone 13 when it comes out in September.

This article originally appeared on Macwelt. Translation by David Price.