Fifth-generation (5G) technology has gained immense traction in 2021, as evident from the massive spurt in sales of smartphones supporting the new wireless standard. Gartner estimates that 538 million 5G smartphones are expected to be sold in 2021, up from 213 million units last year.

Investors looking to take advantage of this trend have several options at their disposal. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT), and Qorvo (NASDAQ:QRVO) are a few stocks investors can consider buying to benefit from the growing adoption of 5G networks and smartphones. Let's see why.

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1. Apple

The 5G smartphone era has been a boon for Apple. According to IDC's smartphone shipment tracker, the company shipped 50.4 million iPhones in the third quarter. This was a nice jump of 20.8% over the year-ago quarter. What's more, Apple's market share of the global smartphone space increased to 15.2% in the quarter, sending the company to second place in the rankings after Samsung.

Note that Apple had an 11.7% share of the global smartphone market in the same period last year when it was third in the rankings after Samsung and Xiaomi. Apple also achieved an increase in shipments at a time when the global smartphone market contracted. This is an indication that the launch of the 5G-enabled iPhone 12 in November 2020 has turned out to be a major catalyst for Apple. The recently launched iPhone 13 is expected to sustain Apple's robust sales growth. That's because Apple now has a wider range of 5G smartphones to offer consumers at different price points starting at $599.

Strategy Analytics estimates that Apple's share of the 5G smartphone market could increase to 40% after the launch of the iPhone 13, compared to 29% at present. Such market share growth seems achievable given that Apple reported a massive installed base of more than a billion iPhone users earlier this year. The iPhone 12 had shipped 100 million units by April 2021, which leaves hundreds of millions of iPhone users out there waiting to upgrade to a 5G device.

All of this shows that Apple's strong iPhone sales momentum is here to stay. The company had registered 47% year-over-year growth in iPhone revenue in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 to $38.9 billion, a trend that could continue, driven by higher volumes and higher average selling prices -- making Apple one of the top 5G stocks to buy right now.

2. Applied Materials

Apple's 5G iPhones are in strong demand, but the company is finding it difficult to manufacture enough devices. Apple was reportedly looking at a production shortfall of 10 million iPhones on account of a chip shortage. This is where Applied Materials comes into play, as it solves a key problem faced by the likes of Apple.

The company supplies chip fabrication equipment to semiconductor foundries, and it has seen a sharp increase in demand for its offerings since last year as the world's appetite for chips has increased. Its revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2021 jumped 41% year-over-year, while adjusted earnings shot up 79% from the prior-year period to $1.90 per share.

More importantly, Applied Materials should be able to keep up this terrific growth in the coming years. Demand for semiconductors is expected to shoot significantly higher, as the industry's revenue is expected to hit $1 trillion by 2030. Booming demand for 5G chips will be one of the pillars of the semiconductor industry's growth.

But, smartphones won't be the only catalysts behind the growth in 5G chip consumption. According to a third-party estimate, the global 5G chipset market could clock an annual growth rate of 69% through 2028, driven by various use cases such as smartphones, routers, telecom base stations, the Internet of Things, and industrial applications, among others.

As such, it is not surprising to see why semiconductor foundries are bumping up their infrastructure investments. Micron Technology, for instance, has outlined a $150 billion investment over the next decade to shore up capacity. While TSMC pointed out earlier this year that it plans to invest $100 billion to increase output. Because of these tailwinds, analysts expect Applied Materials' earnings to increase at an annual rate of nearly 27% for the next five years. This makes it a top semiconductor stock to buy right now, as it is trading at just 25 times trailing earnings, which is cheaper than the S&P 500's average of 29.

3. Qorvo

Qorvo allows investors to take advantage of not just the growth in 5G smartphone sales thanks to clients such as Apple -- as it accounted for 30% of its total revenue in fiscal 2021 -- but also from the infrastructure side. We have already seen how Apple is expected to dominate the 5G landscape, and that's going to rub off positively on Qorvo. This is evident from the company's fiscal 2022 second-quarter results, which revealed a jump of 18% in revenue to $1.3 billion compared to the year-ago period. The chipmaker's earnings increased to $3.42 per share in the quarter from $2.43 last year, an increase of nearly 41%.

The mobile business was a key driver of this growth, recording 32% year-over-year growth during the quarter to $996 million due to the "continued growth of higher content 5G smartphones." It is worth noting that Qorvo has a diverse mobile clientele that includes the likes of "Honor, OPPO, Pixel, Samsung, Vivo, and Xiaomi." As 5G smartphone shipments are expected to exceed 1.1 billion units by 2025, which would be double this year's estimates. Qorvo is in a nice position to take advantage of the end-market opportunity, as its chips are used by leading OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

Qorvo's infrastructure business is also expected to pick up the pace due to 5G infrastructure investments. The company reported design wins to supply chips for small cell sites and base stations to support the 5G rollout across different OEMs last quarter. What's more, Qorvo says that its addressable market in the infrastructure segment will increase significantly in 2022 and report a "strong double-digit CAGR through 2025."

Qorvo gives investors the chance to cast a wider net over the 5G opportunity -- which makes buying the stock right now a good idea, given that it trades at just 21 times trailing earnings.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.