In 2019, smartphone sales were hit by their first drop since 2008. This year, the industry is poised for a comeback, at least according to a new Gartner forecast released on Tuesday.
For 2020, smartphone sales are pegged to reach 57 billion, a gain of 3% from 2019 when sales fell by 2%. Last year, sales sank primarily due to an oversupply in the high-end sector across mature markets and longer replacement cycles, Annette Zimmermann, research vice president at Gartner, said in a press release. But this year, 5G will be the catalyst to spur smartphone demand.
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“In 2020, the market is expected to rebound with the introduction of 5G network coverage in more countries and as users who may have delayed their smartphone purchases until 2020 in expectation of price reductions begin buying again,” Zimmerman said.
Sales of 5G mobile phones are estimated at 221 million this year, grabbing more than 12% of the overall mobile phone sales. In 2021, that number is expected to more than double to 489 million, according to Gartner.
“The commercialization of 5G phones will accelerate in 2020,” Zimmermann said. “5G phones costing under $300 have been announced, so sales growth of 5G phones is expected to exceed that of 4G phones over twelve months.”
A variety of 5G Android phones have already been released or announced, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, the Motorola Moto Z4 with 5G Moto Mod, and the Moto Z3 with 5G Moto Mod. Rumors have been flying that Apple will add 5G to one or more of its 2020 iPhone models. But we likely won’t know for sure until the next iPhone event occurs later this year.
Worldwide smartphone sales
From a regional point of view, the Middle East and North Africa will see the highest growth rate in smartphone sales this year at 5.9%, hitting more than 78 million units. In the mature Asia/Pacific area, sales will rise by 5.7% to 31.8 million. And in the Greater China region (China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong), sales will increase by 5.1% to more than 432 million. Smartphone sales in North America are forecast to rise to 155.3 million from 152.8 million last year.
Strong demand for 5G phones in general along with the expectations of Apple’s first 5G iPhone will boost demand for smartphones, particularly in Asia/Pacific and Greater China. Across the world, the Greater China and emerging Asia/Pacific regions will retain their No. 1 and No. 2 positions this year for the largest number of smartphone sales.
Many vendors are expected to unveil their 5G phone lineup for this year at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona at the end of February.
“Attention at this year’s MWC will be drawn to 5G devices at either end of the price scale, some of which may be revealed before the event,” Zimmermann said. “The key focus for vendors will be access to 5G and enhanced camera technology within devices.”