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The global smartphone market will stage a healthy recovery in 2021 following a dour 2020 that was hurt by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, research firm IDC predicted that smartphone shipments around the world would rise by 7.4% for this year to hit 1.37 billion, a strong bounce from last year when shipments fell by almost 6%.

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Contributing to supply chain issues and economic woes, the pandemic dramatically affected smartphone shipments in 2020. Though the supply chain has yet to fully recover, the industry has shown at least some growth compared with 2019.

Shipments across the largest markets, including the United States, Western Europe and China, will still be down this year versus 2019. Instead, the recovery is being boosted by growing markets such as India, Japan, the Middle East and Africa.

“The smartphone market was better prepared from a supply chain perspective heading into 2020 given almost all regions were expecting to grow, and vendors were preparing accordingly,” Ryan Reith, group vice president with IDC’s Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers, said in the report.

“2020 was a bust due to the pandemic, but all of the top brands continued forward with their production plans with the main difference that the timeline was pushed out,” Reith added. “Therefore, we are at a point where inventory levels are much healthier than PCs and some other adjacent markets, and we are seeing the resilience of consumer demand in recent quarterly results.”

Image: IDC

5G continues to be the major factor driving growth. Vendors and retailers are both pushing 5G devices with much higher average selling prices compared with older 4G phones. The ASP of a 5G phone is expected to hit $634 in 2021, about the same as in 2020. However, ASPs for 4G devices will drop to $206, a 30% decline from last year.

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“Despite the ongoing issues surrounding the pandemic and the delta variant, consumers are continuing to upgrade to more premium smartphones this year,” Anthony Scarsella, IDC research director for mobile phones, said in the report. “Premium smartphones (priced at $1,000+) continued to grow in the second quarter as the segment displayed 116% growth from last year. Moreover, ASPs across the entire market climbed 9% as buyer preferences trend towards more costly 5G models than entry-level devices.”

With the price differences and demand for 5G phones, total 5G shipments across the world will reach 570 million this year, up 123% from 2020. China will continue to dominate the 5G phone market with a 47% share, followed by the U.S. with 16%, India with 6.1% and Japan with 4.1%. By the end of 2022, 5G phones are likely to carve out more than half of all smartphone shipments, accounting for a 54% slice.

iPhones will grab 13.8% of the growth anticipated this year, with Android devices kicking in 6.2%. Beyond this year, overall growth in shipments will continue, but drip down to 3.4% in 2022 and 2023, according to IDC.

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