That was quick. Part of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iPhone 12 lineup, which supports 5G connectivity throughout all models, has already become the No. 1 5G smartphone in the world, according to fresh estimates from Counterpoint Research. 5G penetration had been climbing prior to Apple's official foray, but the Mac maker's inclusion of 5G capability has long been expected to be a major catalyst for the nascent technology's adoption.

The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro launched in late October, quickly giving Apple a commanding lead in 5G.

iPhone 12 lineup in various colors

The iPhone 12 is the most popular 5G smartphone. Image source: Apple.

Grabbing 24% share immediately

Counterpoint estimates that Apple represented a whopping 24% of 5G smartphone unit sales worldwide in the month of October, despite the fact that the new handsets were released on Oct. 23 following a week of pre-orders. Here are the top five models for that month, according to the market researcher.


October 2020 Market Share

Apple iPhone 12


Apple iPhone 12 Pro


Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G


Huawei Nova 7 5G


Huawei P40 5G


Data source: Counterpoint Research.

There were several factors that contributed to the Cupertino company's strong performance. Not only is there considerable pent-up demand for 5G technology within the iOS user base, but also wireless carriers in the U.S. have been particularly aggressive with promotional activity during this product cycle. Carriers have been investing billions in 5G network upgrades and want to lock consumers in to help recoup those costs. The U.S. represented over a third of iPhone 12 and 12 Pro sales in October, according to the report.

5G coverage in the U.S. continues to be underwhelming, but other markets like China have deployed the next-generation cellular technology at broader scale. iPhone customers in those regions will be able to take advantage of much higher data speeds than the average U.S. consumer.

Apple's decision to include mmWave support is also incentivizing carriers to deploy those frequencies, Counterpoint notes. mmWave spectrum is capable of delivering incredibly high speeds but with a trade-off in range since those signals cannot penetrate buildings. mmWave penetration among 5G smartphones jumped from 5% in September to 12% in October.

Looking ahead

The estimates only apply to October, but there's reason to believe that Apple built on its momentum. The iPhone 12 Mini and 12 Pro Max launched in mid-November, a few weeks after the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. This was the first time that Apple has introduced four new iPhone models in a year, allowing it to cater to a more diverse spectrum of price points and consumer preferences.

Counterpoint believes that iPhone 12 demand will remain strong throughout the all-important fourth quarter, as well as heading into early 2021.

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