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Huawei and Samsung are going to wage a fierce war in 2019 for smartphone supremacy

Samsung vs. Huawei

Next year is going to mark a turning point, one way or another, for some of the tech giants that have a lock on the biggest shares of the global smartphone market. Setting aside Apple for a moment, though, since early rumors suggest that Apple’s 2019 iPhone models probably won’t change all that much compared to this year’s iPhones and last year’s iPhone X, let’s move on to the other two big tech giants as ranked by their smartphone shipments.

Huawei vs. Samsung is going to be one of the more interesting storylines to watch unfold over the course of 2019, for a number of reasons. Both companies, among their slate of planned devices, are going to be bringing foldable phones to the marketplace, which could garner reactions that range from befuddlement all the way to mass adoption over an exciting new form factor. Who knows, at this point. It’s something that both companies — among other handset makers that are getting into the foldable game — want to try in part because the global smartphone market in general has been in a bit of a slump. People aren’t racing to buy all the latest flagships and pricey new models like they used to partly over a feeling of been-there, done-that. So maybe foldables are the way to go to bring back a whole new level of excitement and buzz again.

As we reported yesterday, meanwhile, Huawei despite the myriad headwinds facing the company is still going to end 2018 having shipped more than 200 million smartphones this year. While that’s still short of Samsung’s likely numbers for the full year, which the company hasn’t released yet though we can make some assumptions, it underscores that Huawei is continuing to nip at Samsung’s heels and doesn’t plan to stop until it’s overtaken Samsung’s spot as the top global shipper of smartphones.

For comparison, even though Samsung hasn’t released its final numbers for the year yet a quick tally of its smartphone shipments for the first three quarters of 2018 shows it’s already shipped 223 million units or so. Meaning, it’s already beaten Huawei for the year even without the fourth quarter’s totals.

What’s interesting about that, however, is that Samsung’s numbers have been on a bit of a decline even though it’s an established global brand, with tons of fans in the West. Whereas Huawei is having to execute on its ambitions while pretty much forgoing the West and markets like the US entirely.

Recall all the headlines you’ve no doubt seen in recent weeks and months, involving everything from US-led opposition to Huawei devices over Chinese spying concerns, as well as the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Canada in recent weeks ahead of expected extradition to the US. All of which is to say, if Huawei manages to achieve the ambition in 2019 that its executives have been pretty vocal about — the fact that it wants to displace Samsung — it will certainly make 2019 an interesting year on the smartphone front indeed.

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Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.