The 5G smartphone market is about to blow up in 2021. Apple supplier Murata estimates that sales of 5G smartphones could exceed 500 million units in the new year compared to 300 million units in 2020. Market research firm Strategy Analytics has a more aggressive forecast -- predicting a 150% jump in 5G smartphone sales this year from 2020's estimated shipments of 250 million units.

Qorvo (QRVO 0.39%) offers one path for investors to take advantage of this huge jump in 5G smartphone sales. The chipmaker supplies radio-frequency chips to several major smartphone OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). Not surprisingly, Qorvo's revenue and earnings have accelerated big time lately -- a trend that's likely to continue when the chipmaker releases its fiscal 2021 third-quarter results on Feb. 3. Here's what to expect.

Hand holding smartphone with 5G floating over it

Image source: Getty Images.

Qorvo is about to deliver big gains once again

Analysts expect Qorvo to deliver non-GAAP earnings of $2.66 per share on revenue of $1.06 billion for the December quarter. These estimates are in line with management's guidance and well ahead of the year-ago period's $1.86 in earnings per share and $869 million of revenue.

But don't be surprised to see the company blast past its own expectations. That's because Apple, which reportedly accounts for a third of Qorvo's sales, has potentially scaled its iPhone production in the final calendar quarter of 2020. Supply chain checks carried out by Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives suggest Apple could have built close to 90 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, up from his original estimate of 65 million to 70 million units from Sept. 2020.

Such an impressive jump in iPhone production through the quarter doesn't seem surprising as demand for the iPhone 12 is very strong. After all, it didn't take much time for the device to become the best-selling 5G smartphone globally, so Apple alone could give Qorvo a nice lift and help it outperform Wall Street estimates when the company releases its results this week.

The party is just getting started

Analysts believe Qorvo will be able to sustain its high growth rate with the top line growing 19% year over year in the fiscal fourth quarter, while earnings increase 27% to $2.00 per share.

However, there's a strong possibility of Qorvo exceeding those estimates. Cowen analysts estimate Apple could ramp up its March quarter iPhone builds to 55 million units, up 49% year over year. Wedbush has an even more aggressive forecast, estimating iPhone builds between 60 million and 70 million units in the current quarter. What's more, the momentum is expected to spill over into the second quarter of the calendar year as well with Apple expected to make at least 40 million iPhone units.

All of this bodes well for Qorvo given its close relationship with the tech giant. However, the chipmaker is sitting on additional growth drivers such as Samsung's recently launched Galaxy S21 flagship. Qorvo has been a longtime supplier of RF chips to Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones, including Galaxy S20 devices last year, and it's likely to have retained its spot in the new release.

That's because Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra comes equipped with WiFi 6E connectivity, and Qorvo had indicated on its last earnings call that it's "actively supporting leading OEMs in the design of 6E platforms." Counterpoint Research estimates Galaxy S21 shipments could surpass those of the Galaxy S20 by the middle of this year. That wouldn't be surprising as Samsung has slashed the base prices of the Galaxy S21 models by $200 compared to the previous S20 lineup.

Qorvo can ride the success of its mobile customers and maintain its impressive growth rate. More importantly, investors shouldn't forget the 5G smartphone market still has a lot of growth to offer as shipments may hit 1.5 billion units by 2025. In this environment, Qorvo can remain a top 5G play long term, and a strong showing in the upcoming earnings report should give investors the right push to buy the stock.