27 May 2021
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Smartphone shipments to reach 1.38 billion units this year despite economic woes — IDC

By Nick Forrester

Despite economic slowdowns and a shortage of semiconductors due to the pandemic, shipments of smartphones will reach 1.38 billion units this year, according to predictions from IDC released today.

This represents a 7.7% increase from 2020, and the trend is set to continue: in 2022, shipments will total 1.43 billion — a year-over-year increase of 3.8%.

The figures come from IDC’s recently released Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, which also found that while semiconductor shortages were a concern for the sector, the impact has been ‘far less’ than in other markets like automotive, PC, and various consumer tech categories.

“Smartphones are seeing competition for consumer spending from adjacent markets like PCs, tablets, TVs, and smart home devices, yet that hasn’t slowed the market’s path to recovery,” says IDC Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers programme vice president Ryan Reith.

“The smartphone market returned to growth during the holiday quarter last year and since then we’ve only seen production from top suppliers ramp up.”

Reith says 5G continues to be a strong influence in the market — less so in emerging markets, however, where there is strong demand for mid-range and low-end 4G devices due to economic slowdowns in the wake of COVID-19. 

“There continues to be a strong supply-side push toward 5G, and price points continue to drop as a result,” says Reith. 

“IDC expects average selling prices (ASPs) for 5G Android devices to drop 12% year over year in 2021 to $456 and then below $400 in 2022. Apple will continue to feel price pressure.”

In developed markets, though, shipments of 5G-capable devices will grow nearly 130% this year, according to IDC’s research, with almost all regions outside China to see triple-digit growth by year’s end.

Despite this, China will lead global market share in 5G device shipments, controlling almost 50% this year — followed by the US with 16%.

Further afield, the data analyst company predicts single-digit growth to continue through to 2025, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7%. 

“Although the 7.7% growth will feel like an impressive market turnaround, we must keep in mind that we are rebounding from one of the most challenging years on record,” says IDC Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers research manager Anthony Scarsella.

“2021 will represent the largest year-over-year growth the market has witnessed since 2015, as the shift towards 5G across all price tiers continues to accelerate. 

“The 5G shift will also deliver peak smartphone ASPs in 2021 ($376, up 9.7% year over year) when compared to the remainder of the forecast period as costly 5G devices continue to replace LTE devices, which are also starting to drop in price, down 27% in 2021.”

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