The big picture: Global chip sales increased 25.1 percent in 2021, surpassing the $500 billion mark annually for the first time ever despite ongoing semiconductor shortages and supply chain hiccups. How is this possible during a shortage that impacted the entire supply chain, and the automotive industry in particular?

Gartner in its preliminary report on the worldwide semiconductor industry found that 2021 sales totaled $583.5 billion.

Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner, said strong demand coupled with logistics and raw material price increases drove semiconductors’ average selling price higher, thus contributing to overall revenue growth.

“The 5G smartphone market also helped drive semiconductor revenue, with unit production more than doubling to reach 555 million in 2021, compared to 250 million in 2020,” Norwood added.

Samsung had a particularly strong showing in 2021, reclaiming the top spot from Intel for the first time since 2018. Samsung’s revenue last year increased 31.6 percent to $76 billion, while Intel’s only grew half a percentage point to $73.1 billion. SK Hynix, Micron Technology and Qualcomm rounded out the top five in that order.

Gartner said memory was the best-performing device category in 2021 as companies increased server deployments to satisfy remote working, learning and entertainment needs. Within the memory sub-category, DRAM had the best showing with annual revenue growth of 40.4 percent thanks to server deployments and rising demand for PCs.

As for when we can expect to see markets get back to normal, it’s still up in the air at this point. Companies are throwing money at the issue to try and boost production, but the future of the pandemic remains uncertain and other nagging issues like scalpers and bots continue to be a thorn in the sides of retailers and shoppers.

Image credit: Sergei Starostin

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