Skip to main content

The world's top-selling 5G phone unveiled — sorry Android

iPhone 12 Pro review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 12 is the world's best selling 5G phone. And it managed that feat just two weeks after launch.

A report penned by Counterpoint Research's Varun Mishra showed just how well the iPhone 12 sold this October along with other popular 5G phones. The individual figures are amusing fodder for your phone brand fandom arguments, while the total picture tells us some interesting things about the future of phones.

Apple actually occupies the first two spots on Counterpoint's list. At the top is the basic iPhone 12, which comprised 16% of all 5G phones sold globally in October, and one place below it is the iPhone 12 Pro, which comprised 8%. 

Again, no surprise that new iPhones sold well, but the fact they topped the charts after only two weeks on sale is still impressive. Even more so, the iPhone 12 managed to enter the top 10 5G phones sold since January 2020 at the number 7 spot despite being released later on in the year.

iPhone 12 sales October 2020

(Image credit: Counterpoint Research)

The rest of the list features some more familiar names. Third place goes to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, another flagship 5G phone released halfway through 2020 that had been at the top of the list before the iPhone 12 launched. Among the rest, we have a handful of Huawei phones, including the P40 Pro, a pair of Oppo phones, and also the basic Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and the Galaxy S20 Plus.

Counterpoint offered a few different reasons to explain why these results came to be. It suggested that iPhone users were particularly eager to upgrade to a 5G handset, and that attractive offers from U.S. mobile carriers helped convince them to do so. The fact that Apple is immensely popular around the world, instead of just a few countries (like Huawei in China for example) means it was able to benefit from big Chinese and Japanese sales as well as those in the U.S.

Such iPhone 12 sales success could have a huge impact on mmWave 5G specifically, which you might call "true" 5G rather than the simpler sub-6GHz 5G most networks currently use. Because the iPhone 12 is already compatible with mmWave 5G, Counterpoint suggested that this could help drive mobile carriers in the U.S. to develop their mmWave capabilities. In turn, that could lead to faster, more reliable 5G services that could help drive data-hungry applications like augmented reality and virtual reality.

Counterpoint predicted that the iPhone 12's strong performance will continue to the end of the year and beyond, benefiting from holiday sales and the phone's later than normal launch meaning the usual iPhone upgrade cycle is still ongoing. Combine that with the fact that the whole iPhone 12 range is excellent, and Apple's latest flagship is bound to cause trouble for the best of the Android phones world for another year at least. 

We'll have to see if the Samsung Galaxy S21 can take on its Apple rival, when it arrives in January. 

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.