MediaTek beat Qualcomm as 2020's biggest smartphone chipset vendor

Almost mirroring the old Intel and AMD rivalry, Qualcomm and MediaTek have traditionally been at it since the smartphone market exploded years ago. MediaTek was regarded as having more affordable options, though often with inferior performance. To its credit, it has been improving both in performance and features and it seems that its investments have finally paid off now that it has wrested the mobile chipset market crown from Qualcomm, at least in 2020.

MediaTek was already reportedly taking the lead by the third quarter of last year but a new report reveals its overall market share by the end of 2020. MediaTek shipped 113.8 million chips last year for a total of 351.8 million units, a 47.8% increase compared to its numbers in 2019. That gave MediaTek 27.2% of the market share last year, up from 2019's 17.2% and enough to slightly take the lead against Qualcomm's 25%.

Of course, MediaTek's chipset sales largely depend on who's buying them and how much they're selling. Of particular importance was Xiaomi whose sales of MediaTek-powered phones skyrocketed to 223.3% in 2020. Samsung, however, still had the biggest growth rate, selling 254.5% more MediaTek-powered devices year-over-year.

MediaTek's growth spurt was also helped by Huawei's problems in the US. With no access to Qualcomm chips, Huawei and later on the new independent Honor had to switch en masse to MediaTek as the company's HiSilicon Kirin chips supply started to dwindle. Oppo and Realme also continue to be one of MediaTek's strongest sellers, shipping a combined 83.19 million units last year.

2021 might tell a completely different story, especially since the gap between MediaTek and Qualcomm isn't that wide. Omdia, who published the figures, still expends MediaTek to retain its lead, however, especially as the market for cheaper smartphones continues to grow.