Global smartphone sales fell 5% in 4Q20, says Gartner

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The analyst firm, Gartner, has released new data which shows that global smartphone sales declined 5.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In the full year of 2020, smartphones declined by a larger 12.5% overall compared to the previous year. The main driver of the decline was Huawei, which has been impeded by various sanctions by the United States.

The reasons for the slowdown in growth are numerous, aside from the economic squeeze felt by consumers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Huawei being hit by sanctions, people have also been holding off on new purchases until they can secure themselves a device that is compatible with new 5G networks that are coming online and boast faster download speeds.

Discussing the findings, Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner, said:

“The sales of more 5G smartphones and lower-to-mid-tier smartphones minimized the market decline in the fourth quarter of 2020. Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter. In 2021, the availability of lower end 5G smartphones and innovative features will be deciding factors for end users to upgrade their existing smartphones. The rising demand for affordable 5G smartphones outside China will boost smartphone sales in 2021.”

The five biggest smartphone brands of 4Q20 were Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei with the following respective market share values: 20.8%, 16.2%, 11.3%, 8.9%, and 8.9%. Compared to the year before, Samsung and Huawei lost market share but Apple, Xiaomi, and Oppo managed to boost their figures. The total smartphone sales in 4Q20 were 384,622,300 units while a year earlier shipments reached 406,638,100.

Gartner's figures somewhat differ from IDC's analysis which it published at the end of January. IDC said that the global smartphone market grew in the fourth quarter and saw a smaller decline across the whole year. One similarity between both sets of data, however, is that Huawei saw a heavy decline in sales.

One of the interesting takeaways with this data is the fact that Apple still managed to increase its sales year-over-year even though its devices receive software updates for much longer than Android devices; unless the increase in sales is due to new customers getting on-board, it could suggest that existing Apple users prefer to keep up with the latest model.

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