According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the worldwide smartphone market is forecast to decline 11.9% year over year in 2020 with total shipments down to 1.2 billion units. The forecast follows the largest year-over-year decline in history in the first quarter of 2020 (1Q20). Smartphone shipments are now expected to decline 18.2% in the first half of the year as the macroeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect consumer spending. Global smartphone shipments are not expected to return to growth until the first quarter of 2021 (1Q21).
What started as a supply-side crisis has evolved into a global demand-side problem. Nationwide lockdowns and rising unemployment have reduced consumer confidence and reprioritized spending towards essential goods, directly impacting the uptake of smartphones in the short term. On the brighter side, 5G is expected to be a catalyst throughout the forecast period, which will play a vital role in worldwide smartphone market recovery in 2021.
From a geographic standpoint, the Chinese economy will continue to be impacted by COVID-19, however signs of improvement are showing as lockdowns and supply chain disruptions have begun to ease a bit. For the most part, factories have resumed operations and the market has opened with some travel and logistical restrictions, leading IDC to believe the China domestic market will only see a single digit decline in 2020. In contrast, Europe has been hit hard by COVID-19, especially in severely impacted countries like Italy and Spain, which will cause a double-digit decline in the region this year. Nonetheless, IDC expects the top vendors in the region to maintain their market shares driven by rotating strategies such as higher flagship launches and forming stronger e-commerce footprints.
Undoubtedly, challenges lie ahead for the smartphone industry and the economic downturn is going to cause some fluctuation in the vendor and price-tier landscape. The surge in consumer spending around devices that are less mobile than smartphones (PCs, monitors, video game consoles, etc.) will take a share of the consumer wallet that would have been put towards smartphone upgrades and 5G. This will result in even more aggressively priced 5G smartphones than expected prior to the pandemic. This could result in some share wins for the vendors that position their portfolios to capitalize on this change.
Click here for more on the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Phone Tracker.