Smartphone sales will increase just 0.2 per cent to 1.95 billion units in 2018, with the industry unlikely to see significant momentum until 5G-ready devices hit the market, CCS Insight predicted.
The company expects smartphone sales in both Western Europe and North America to dip this year, as global demand begins to stall. The European market is expected to drop 7 per cent year-on-year, with North America tipped to drop 3 per cent.
CCS Insight attributed the slowdown to “new smartphones offering little more than an incremental update on previous models”.
“Consumers in mature markets have been underwhelmed by the latest crop of flagship smartphones,” said Marina Koytcheva, CCS Insight VP of forecasting, adding: “Price hikes for top-end devices, with some of the latest and greatest devices hitting $1,000 or €1,000 have certainly not helped and it’s little surprise that consumers have decided they might as well stick with the device they already own.”
CCS Insight predicted the slow growth will continue until around 2021, when 5G begins to “reignite sales”. But smartphone makers will have to be patient “as they wait for this next wave of upgrade activity”, even though the first 5G networks are expected to go live in 2019.
The company forecast significant smartphone demand will only begin in 2021, with a positive impact expected in 2022 when 600 million 5G-enabled phones are expected to be sold.
These devices will represent around 30 per cent of the global market in 2022, pushing sales up to more than 2 billion units in the same year.
“The arrival of 5G handsets offers a glimmer of hope for embattled smartphone markets,” Koytcheva added.
“They’re betting that this new, faster technology will give consumers a reason to upgrade their phones.”
CCS Insight added the slowing demand in Europe and North America in 2018 will be offset by a better outlook in emerging markets in Asia-Pacific, India and Africa. Koytcheva, however, also cautioned consumers in these markets are also taking up smartphones more slowly than expected.