Huawei became the world's largest smartphone vendor in Q2 2020

Two years ago, it was on the road to becoming the world's top smartphone maker. Last year, it seemed almost impossible despite wresting the number two spot from Apple. Now it seems that the embattled Chinese phone maker and networking equipment manufacturer has made good on its promise and has actually beaten Samsung in the numbers game last quarter. Whether it can maintain that position, however, is still in question, especially when its success rides on the back of a deadly virus.

It is pretty much absent in the US and the phones it does sell outside of China don't have official and direct access to Google's apps and services. By all expectations, Huawei's shipment numbers should be dropping, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically, it's exactly because of that pandemic that Huawei was able to one-up its biggest rival, even if for just a quarter.

Canalys credits Huawei's unexpected turnaround to COVID-19 and even says that this would have never happened if not for that. Huawei was able to exploit the recovery of the Chinese market to boost its sales even as its presence in international markets declined.

It also helped that other manufacturers were having a rough time as well. Samsung's drop in shipments in the second quarter was actually steeper, down by 30% compared to Huawei's 5% decline. The fact that Samsung barely had a foothold in China also hurt its chances of competing against Huawei on its own turf.

The market analysis firm, however, is also uncertain if Huawei will be able to maintain that lead in the long run. It won't be able to bank on the COVID-19 pandemic for long and pressure to push it out of markets isn't letting up either. Samsung is unlikely to take things sitting down, too, though it remains to be seen if its upcoming batch of devices will be enough to recover its ground.