2018 was a historic low point for smartphone shipments

2018 was a historic low point for smartphone shipments

2018 may have been an interesting year in the smartphone world for several reasons: the global rise of Chinese OEMs, the new wave of gaming phones, mobile AI and so on. But it certainly wasn't a happy year for the industry in terms of shipments. 

There were previous indications from the manufacturers themselves that smartphone sales had stagnated overall, and a fresh figures from the International Data Corporation confirm this.

In Q4 2018, shipments were down 4.9% year on year, making it the fifth quarter in a row that the numbers tumbled down. Ryan Reith, IDC’s program vice president for Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, cites several factors to explain this downward spiral: people are holding on to their phones longer, big markets are becoming crowded with competition, prices are going up across the board, and of course political disruptions such as the US-China trade war. While certain markets such as India, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam are actually on the up, these are just scattered points of light in what has overall been one of the darkest years for the smartphone industry.

Currently the top 5 global brands are Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi. Samsung and Apple both and the saw a big drop not just in the 4th quarter but the whole of 2018. But the remaining Chinese brands, saw growth globally, even if not in China itself. Having said that, the numbers show that Chinese buyers (30% of the world’s smartphone consumption) are buying more and more from national OEMs rather than foreign companies.

AndroidPIT China
China remains a critically important market for handsets. / © NextPit

Longtime readers will not be surprised that a combination of rising prices, a crowded market and an overall lack of innovation is putting people off buying smartphones, especially in markets where they are reaching commodity status. In 2019, the industry is leaning hard into new trends including foldable displays, new ways to maximize screen space, and 5G in order to excite consumers. 

Do you think that this downward trend will turn around? What are your predictions for the smartphone market in 2019?


Source: IDC

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  • DROP the price. Plus, people are FINALLY figuring out, you really don't need to buy a new phone every 12-24 months. I think the "batterygate" issue that Apple got involved in, slowing down the OS update, if it detected a less than 100% battery in older phones, as a wake up call. High prices, crippling phones, plus phones are just getting minor "upgrades" with each model. So the benchmarks say "20% improvement in performance". OH GOODIE! I can open my browser 0.000001 seconds faster! What a JUMP in my user experience! Get real! Phones are fast enough for what people use them for.

  • I think Apple & Samsung will continue to have struggling sales in 2019. The high prices will help the Chinese brands like one plus & Huawei. Especially the op6t & honor view20. These 1,000 dollar phones make it difficult for the average consumer to purchase!

    • storm Feb 1, 2019 Link to comment

      Pine64 is set to release a Linux smartphone running KDE this year for $149. It's no powerhouse and the specs are low end. But this is a open source system for very little money with phenomenal extensibility. Glam is where the money is but true power and flexibility can be had for surprisingly low amounts.

      The commodification of the smartphone is accelerating. The big names will begin to lose money on smartphones pretty soon, 18-24 months, although apple seems to be leading there.

      Great for consumers, bad for makers.

    • But Chinese brands won't fly in the US. Incompatibility issue as well as very poor support. Apple doesn't have that issue

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