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5G devices to save smartphone makers

Global demand for smartphones will continue to be slow until 2022 when 2.02 billion phones are forecasts to be sold, CCS Insight predicts.

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Global demand for smartphones will continue to be slow until 2022 when 2.02 billion phones are forecasts to be sold, CCS Insight predicts.

The telecom industry is banking on 5G devices to reignite sales, but momentum will only begin from 2021. CCS Insight expects over 600 million 5G-enabled mobile phones will be sold in 2022.

With new smartphones offering little more than an incremental update on previous models, the research firm fears that demand is unlikely to grow significantly for the next few years. Marina Koytcheva, CSS Insight VP adds, “Consumers in mature markets have been underwhelmed by the latest crop of flagship smartphones. Price hikes for top-end devices, with some of the latest and greatest devices hitting $1,000, have certainly not helped, and it’s little surprise more customers have decided they might as well stick with the device they already own.”

Koytcheva notes that it’s not all doom and gloom [US and European markets]: “Although mature markets are suffering, there’s still growth potential in Africa, the emerging markets of Asia-Pacific, and India.

CCS Insight believes the balance between developed and emerging markets will remain relatively stable, resulting in the global market for mobile phones edging up very slightly over the next five years, eventually delivering sales of more than 2 billion units in 2022.

CCS Insight also believes that manufacturers are increasingly looking to 5G technology to reignite growth in mature markets. “The arrival of 5G handsets offers a glimmer of hope for embattled smartphone makers. They’re betting that this new, faster technology will give consumers a reason to upgrade their phones,” Koytcheva comments.

She cautions, however, that phone-makers will have to be patient as they wait for this next wave of upgrade activity. “Although we expect the first 5G smartphones will hit the market in 2019, really significant demand won’t start until 2021, eventually having a positive impact in 2022, when we expect over 600 million 5G phones will be sold, accounting for 31% of the global market.”

CCS Insight also notes that while advanced markets are focused on the transition to 5G, consumers in emerging markets are taking up smartphones more slowly than previously expected. Koytcheva comments, “The rising cost of components for entry-level smartphones and the arrival of affordable feature phones that support 4G networks mean that many people who otherwise might have bought their first smartphone are sticking with a feature phone for now”.

CCS Insight’s research indicates that the trend is most prominent in India, but is also evident in other emerging markets. As a result, the research company believes smartphones will account for less than half of all mobile phones sold in India, emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Africa in 2018.

Koytcheva is optimistic: “Although the next couple of years are going to be tough, we’re certain that the shift to smartphones in emerging markets hasn’t evaporated — it’s merely been delayed. This year worldwide sales of smartphones will top 1.8 billion units by 2022.”

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