The numbers from the International Data Corporation show a pretty dire picture for the global smartphone industry, at least shipment wise. In the 4th quarter of 2018, shipments were down 4.9% year on year and this was actually the fifth straight quarter that the numbers were down, making last year one of the worst years for the industry. And despite a lot of potential “hitmakers” for this 2019, numbers are still expected to decline due to various industry and economic reasons.
According to Ryan Reith, IDC’s program vice president for Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, some of the reasons why there has been a steady decline the past few quarters include the fact that replacement cycles for phones are now longer, there are increasing penetrations in big markets, rising price points, and of course the usual economic and political reasons. There are some exceptions in markets like India, Indonesia, Korea, and Vietnam but those are just a few bright spots.
China remains a central point to the industry, despite having a bad 2018 as well. The top 4 brands of phones in terms of numbers are all locally made – Huawei, OPPO, vivo, and Xiaomi. They grew their share in the local Chinese market to 78% from 66% of 2017. China accounts for 30% of the world’s smartphone consumption so they will still continue to play a big role in the industry this 2019.
Globally, the top 5 brands are Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi and the first two saw their volumes drop not just in the 4th quarter but the whole of 2018. The latter three, all Chinese brands, saw them strengthen their numbers in the global market not just their native China. Huawei, in particular, had a good year, despite the hardships of penetrating the US market because of suspicions they are working with the Chinese government to “spy” on Americans.
There is some hope though as the imminent arrival of innovations like foldable displays and 5G connectivity might reinvigorate the market. Of course that all depends on how well the vendors and carriers will be able to market such things. However, the probable higher cost may also deter people from immediately buying these devices.