Apple sold an estimated 40.92 million smartphones during the quarter, a 3.7 million drop from the 44.57 million that it sold in the first quarter of 2019.
Other smartphone manufacturers saw much steeper drops in sales. Samsung's sales, for example, were down 22.7 percent, and Huawei's sales were down 27.3 percent. Xiaomi was the only smartphone manufacturer that saw a slight increase in sales, with the overall smartphone market down 20.2 percent.
"The coronavirus pandemic caused the global smartphone market to experience its worst decline ever," said Anshul Gupta, senior research analyst at Gartner. "Most of the leading Chinese manufacturers and Apple were severely impacted by the temporary closures of their factories in China and reduced consumer spending due to the global shelter-in-place."
Apple in early February was forced to close all of its retail stores in China, and later in the year, the rest of its stores across the world were shuttered amid the global pandemic.
Apple has been slowly reopening its stores outside of China since the beginning of May and while not all locations have reopened, close to 100 stores in the U.S are open for repairs and pickups, plus stores in countries like Australia, Canada, Italy, and Germany have reopened.
"Apple had a strong start to the year thanks to its new product line up that saw strong momentum globally. If COVID-19 did not happen, the vendor would have likely seen its iPhone sales reached record level in the quarter. Supply chain disruptions and declining consumer spending put a halt to this positive trend in February," said Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner. "Apple's ability to serve clients via its online stores and its production returning to near normal levels at the end of March helped recover some of the early positive momentum."
Apple in April shared its earnings results for the second fiscal quarter of 2020, which corresponds to the first calendar quarter of the year. Apple posted revenue of $58.5 billion, up just slightly from the $58 billion in revenue it brought in during the second fiscal quarter of 2019.