Analyst company IDC revised its global smartphone shipment forecast, stating the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak will cause a 2.3 per cent year-on-year decline in shipments, to 1.3 billion units.

In 2019, IDC tipped the global smartphone market to grow 1.5 per cent this year to 1.4 billion units, due to strong demand for 5G devices in China.

But in an update, IDC said the opening half of this year will see shipments decline 10.6 per cent compared with the same period in 2019. Sangeetika Srivastava, senior research analyst, predicted shipments will start stabilising from Q3, with a return to growth in 2021 fuelled by 5G models.

It tipped shipments in 2021 to be around 1.43 billion, though Srivastava caveated this by noting it was dependent on the virus being brought under control and acceleration in “5G plans”.

“While China, the largest smartphone market, will take the biggest hit, other major geographies will feel the hit from supply chain disruptions.”

Manufacturing and logistics will take multiple quarters to recover as transportation challenges impact the return to work by Chinese workers.

China will see a “demand shock” for several quarters, but this will be mitigated by the end of the year with government aid and subsidies. However, IDC Asia-Pacific research manager Will Wong warned the Chinese market will experience a 40 per cent year-on-year drop in shipments in the current quarter.

“Buyers will purchase from online channels, which will account for a significantly increased share of phones sold in the first half of 2020 and may represent a permanent shift in buying behaviours,” added Wong.