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Huawei passes Apple to become world's No. 2 smartphone maker

People walk past the advertisement lightbox of Huawei P20, a new listed smart phone. Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

After years of growth, Huawei has now surpassed Apple to become the second largest provider of smartphones, according to market research firm IDC.

Why it matters: Though largely blocked from becoming a serious player in the U.S., the Chinese company has grown to be a major competitor in the markets for both cell phones and the network gear that allows them to communicate with one another.

"The continued growth of Huawei is impressive, to say the least, as is its ability to move into markets where, until recently, the brand was largely unknown," IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a statement.

Yes, but: Apple could retake the No. 2 spot later this year, when the new iPhone models come out. "It is worth noting that Apple moved into the top position each of the last two holiday quarters following its product refresh, so it's likely we'll see continued movement among the top ranked companies in 2018 and beyond," Reith said.

The bottom line: Apple still accounts for the bulk of the industry's profits and dominates the most lucrative segment of the market. Samsung remains the market leader, but Huawei has emerged as a serious global rival while names like HTC and Sony have faded.