5G to expand global device shipments in 2020

While next-generation mobile phones will see growth, PCs are projected to decline, Gartner predicts.

Global shipments of devices including PCs, tablets and mobile phones will total 2.16 billion units in 2020, a .9% increase from 2019, according to Gartner data released on Tuesday.

The projected increase in shipments can partially be attributed to 5G devices, which are supposed to be released at scale this year

SEE: 5G: What it means for IoT (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

"Device shipment growth--from smartphones to PCs--will [also] be driven by replacement demand. We believe that the device market is highly saturated and a small percentage of the shipments will come from new placement, meaning that a brand new user is added to the market," said Mike Kitagawa, senior research principal analyst at Gartner. 

"For example, a consumer who never owned a PC bought the device for the first time in this quarter. If users keep PCs longer and do not replace their existing PCs sooner, the shipment growth will slow down," Kitagawa said. "We expect that Windows 10 upgrade demands in the business market passed the peak in 2020 so the market will decline."

According to previous Gartner research, shipment rates declined by 2% year-over-year in 2019, with handsets accounting for the reduced sales rates. Worldwide shipments of devices totaled 2.14 billion units in 2019, compared to 2.22 billion in 2018. 

In August of 2019, Ting Mobile's Phone Upgrade Survey determined that the two-year smartphone upgrade cycle is dead, with nearly half (47%) of users reportedly keeping mobile devices for at least three years before purchasing new devices. Top deciding factors included price and the perks of new devices not being enticing enough, Ting Mobile found. 

However, Gartner's research indicated that 5G might be worth the upgrade. 

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Smartphone shipments in 2020  

The worldwide mobile phone market is on track to grow by 1.7% in 2020, with Greater China and emerging markets in Asia-Pacific leading the way, according to the report. 

Spearheading the increase in shipments will be 5G models, projected to account for 12% of shipments in 2020, and will reach 43% by 2022. 

"5G will play a key role for smartphone growth, but not so much yet in 2020. We expect that 5G enabled smartphone will boost the growth going forward," Kitagawa said.

"From 2020, Gartner expects an increase in 5G phone adoption as prices decrease, 5G service coverage increases and users have better experiences with 5G phones," said Ranjit Atwal, research senior director at Gartner, in a press release

"The market will experience a further increase in 2023, when 5G handsets will account for over 50% of the mobile phones shipped," Atwal added. 

Decline in global PC market 

Not all devices will see growth in 2020, however, with PC shipments taking a downturn. Throughout this year, the market will be impacted by the end of migration to Windows 10, the report found. 

The professional PC market has experienced three years of growth, but replacement levels will decrease. Last week, Windows announced it would no longer support the widely used Windows 7, causing many people to replace their older devices with Windows 10 versions

Because support for Windows 7 is officially over, the report found that most people have probably already made the switch to Windows 10, but that doesn't mean upgrades will immediately stop altogether.

"The end of Windows 7 support has been a strong growth driver in the business PC market," Kitagawa said. "Businesses needs MS support on their PCs. Even after the support ends, there are quite few Window 7 PCs in the business market, especially in emerging markets. 

"Therefore, the growth driven by Windows 10 upgrades will continue in the business PC market for a while. For the consumer side, the end of Windows 7 support is not critical for growth. We believe that active PC users already have PCs for now," Kitagawa added.

To boost PC sales, however, "Industry players must continue to invest in R&D for innovation that can stimulate PC replacement and even bring some users back to PC usage. The introduction of a new type of device which can offer a new usage model with great user experience is the key for success," Kitagawa said.

For more, check out IDC: Smartphone sales to surge in 2020 due to China's push into 5G on TechRepublic. 

This article was updated on January 22, 2019 with comments from Kitagawa. 

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